Teenage depression stigmatized

May 09, 2011

Depression is one of the most common illnesses young people face, and as Melissa Healy's article ("Depressed teens mostly struggle alone" April 29) highlighted, far too many teenagers with the illness never receive adequate treatment. While identifying young people who are suffering is an essential step, larger issues remain.

There is a tremendous stigma associated with mental illness. With the emergence of education and awareness campaigns around depression, many people now understand the signs and symptoms of the illness, but the negative connotations that come with the diagnosis remain. Moreover, while there are large-scale efforts to identify young people with the illness, less energy is focused on the well-documented shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists. Primary care physicians are often not trained or not comfortable treating depression in young people. Thus it is too often the case that even when teenagers are identified, they and their families struggle to find effective care.

Depression is a treatable medical illness. Until we address the misconceptions about the illness and ensure that adequate care is available for those who seek it, our young people will continue to struggle alone.

Katie Heley, Baltimore

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