There's been a lot of research about teen depression, but now a new study suggests that the best time to intervene is much earlier, in middle school, when the symptoms typically start to develop. And there's one approach that seems to be the most effective.
"Overcoming obstacles and anything else that would get in the way of success.”
For Marcel Sampson, that's been a way of life. At age 5, he moved in with his aunt after his world fell apart.
"But he transitioned very well, because he got the love he needed. And he just moved forward and never looked back,” said Sharon Sampson, Marcel’s aunt.
Is that kind of resilience hard-wired in some people? Marcel doesn't think so.
"You don't have to be born with it," Marcel said. "You can learn or you can be taught it, or it's just something that you gain over years."
And then there's the flip side, according to Seattle Children's Researcher Dr. Cari McCarty.
“I'm going to give up, I'm no good at this, I'm not going to even try anymore.”
But what does it take to turn that kind of negative thinking around? McCarty's study looked at middle school students showing early signs of depression. Some received one-on-one support, but they didn't fare as well the rest who met in groups and were taught positive thinking and coping skills.
“Basic problem solving skills, which involves really thinking about a problem, taking a step back, generating multiple solutions, brainstorming options and then making a weighted decision about what they should do,” said McCarty.
McCarty says the take home message for parents is teach your children early how to manage stress and their emotions.
“Depression is preventable in some sense in that we can make a difference and we can mitigate some of the negative effects by intervening earlier with kids,” said McCarty.
The students are being followed to see if the intervention will have a lasting effect.
The study appears in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.