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January 14, 2002

U-M researchers to explore depression in children and teens with help from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation

Reporters & Editors:
To speak with the researchers, or to learn more about the U-M Depression Center, e-mail the UMHS media team ( or call 734-764-2220.

Patients & Families:
To learn more about the U-M Depression Center, visit To inquire about treatment options and clinical trial participation, call 734-936-4400.

ANN ARBOR, MI - Three new studies at the University of Michigan Depression Center are addressing some of the most pressing questions about depression in children and adolescents: How common is it, how is it being treated, and how can treatment success rates be improved?

The projects are funded by $230,000 in grants from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation's Depression Among Children and Teens program. The studies draw on the U-M's strengths in depression treatment and research, and aim to help patients in Michigan and beyond.

One study, headed by Jerry Rushton, M.D., MPH, an assistant professor of pediatrics, will look at the rates, characteristics and treatment of depression among children and teens enrolled in three Michigan insurance programs. The survey of one year's data will help give solid numbers for incidence of depression, use of prescription medications and counseling, and adherence to treatment. In turn, the study may help identify groups with increased risks, variations in treatment, and opportunities for better treatment coordination and outcomes.

Two other studies, led by Cheryl King, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Child & Adolescent Depression Program, will assess new depression interventions.

One approach uses a computerized voice-recognition phone system that depressed teenagers can use each week to report their symptoms and treatment satisfaction. Recognizing the importance of privacy and autonomy to teenagers, this system enables them to give this information wherever and whenever they choose. Some young patients will be randomly assigned to try the new system in conjunction with their usual treatment, with their parents' consent. King and her colleagues will follow those patients and others who do not use the system, and compare their treatment adherence, satisfaction with treatment, and outcomes.

A second study led by King will evaluate the long-term effect of another treatment enhancement that her team has already shown can help some depressed and suicidal young people. The Youth-Nominated Support Team - a group of peers, family members and other trusted adults chosen by the teen - is designed to help patients cope with depression or suicidal thoughts. A randomized controlled trial involving 300 teen girls from southeast Michigan already showed the YST approach reduced suicidal thoughts and emotional distress during a six-month test period. Now, the team will evaluate the same teens' progress over a two-year follow-up period.

Written by Kara Gavin

For more information, contact Kara Gavin or Carrie Hagen, UMHS Public Relations, 734-764-2220, or by e-mail.

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