Clinical characteristics of adolescents referred for treatment of depressive disorders

Faith Orchard, Laura Pass, Tamsin Marshall, Shirley Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Adolescence is a period of increased risk for the development of depression. Epidemiological and clinical studies suggest that the phenomenology of depression may differ during childhood and adolescence. However, participants in these studies may not reflect depressed young people referred to routine clinical services. The aim of this paper is to describe referrals for depression to a UK routine public healthcare service for children and adolescents with mental health difficulties.
Method: This paper describes a consecutive series of adolescents (N = 100, aged 12-17 years), referred for depression to a routine public healthcare child and adolescent mental health service, in the south of England. Young people and their caregivers completed a structured diagnostic interview and self report measures of anxiety and depression.
Results: Fewer than half of young people referred for depression met diagnostic criteria for a depressive disorder. The key symptoms reported by those with depression were low mood or irritability, cognitive disturbances, sleep disturbances and negative self-perceptions. Suicidal ideation was common and was considerably higher than reported in other studies. Caregiver and young person's accounts of adolescent symptoms of depression and anxiety were uncorrelated. Caregivers also reported fewer symptoms of depression in their child than adolescents themselves.
Conclusions: These data have direct relevance to the design and delivery of public mental health services for children and adolescents. However, we do not know how representative this sample is of other clinical populations in the UK or in other countries. There is a need to collect routine data from other services to assess the needs of this group of high risk adolescents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-68
Number of pages8
JournalChild and Adolescent Mental Health
Issue number2
Early online date15 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

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