Depression: Each of us knows someone with mental illness—in fact, one in five teens are diagnosed with depression each year. Many of these teens also have other emotional and behavioral problems that impact their social and emotional well-being; affect their relationships with friends and families; make school success difficult; and lead them to turn to drugs, cutting, or suicide. Adding to this, depression is stigmatized in our culture such that teens and families do not want to talk about it. As a result, only 25 percent of those diagnosed with depression will get help, and it is difficult to engage teens and families in efforts to prevent a teen’s depression before it becomes too severe.
The goal of this study is to develop a program that will help prevent depression before it gets too bad. We want to test which of two programs—either an online coping program (called CATCH-IT) or therapy-like sessions with other teens (called POD)—helps teens feel more hopeful and able to cope with tough situations. We will be reaching out to teens in three ways. First, we will ask teens aged 13–19 to answer questions about their feelings on two forms when they visit their doctor’s office. Those who say they have been feeling down will receive a call from our study staff to schedule a meeting with a social worker and join the study. Second, we will send letters to teens and their families to inform them about the study. This information will include information on how to call our study staff to schedule a meeting with a social worker and join the study if they are interested. Third, we will send texts and emails to teens to inform them about the study. These will include information on how to call our study staff to schedule a meeting a social worker join the study. After the meeting with our study social worker, teens will be randomly assigned to either the CATCH-IT group or the POD group. Teens in each group will be followed by our staff while they participate in the study and will receive gift cards for participating. Each teen will be in the study for 18 months. We will conduct the study with over 564 teens in the Chicago, Rockford, and Louisville, Illinois, areas. These areas include inner-city, suburban, and rural communities of African-American teens, Latino teens, Arab teens, and Caucasian teens; these sites will also tap LGBTQ teens.
We want to find out how these programs will best work in different communities for teens with varied ethnicities and sexual orientations. During the study, we will be checking in with community and parent advisory boards to see if what we are finding and recommending is working for their community. We will also be interview doctors and nurses involved in the study to see how they view the study and its progress.
This study is a natural progression of a large previous study our university conducted that looked at ways to prevent teen depression. We put the knowledge gained from that study into use for this larger, more comprehensive study.