In the past year, the percentage of girls aged 12 and 15 years who experienced a major depressive episode has tripled from 5.1% to 15.2%, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The report, which is based on combined data from the 2008 to 2010 SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), also revealed that each year, an average of 1.4 million adolescent girls aged between 12 to 17 years suffers from a major depressive episode, which is three times higher, i.e. 12% than the risk of their male counterparts (4.%). The NSDUH is a scientifically conducted annual US-wide survey that involves around 67,500 individuals above the age of 12 years.

According to criteria listed in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the American Psychiatric Association has defined a major depressive episode as a person suffering a period of depressed mood or loss of interest/pleasure that lasts 2 weeks or longer, in addition to suffering from at least four other symptoms that indicate a change in functional behavior, including sleeping problems, problems with eating, concentration, energy and with their self-image.

Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA Administrator, states:

“It is crucial that we provide adolescent girls the coping skills and social supports they need to avoid the onset of depression, and to offer behavioral health services that foster resilience and recovery if they experience it. These efforts are a sound investment in girls’ health and well-being and in our nation’s future.”

SAMHSA provides various successful programs designed to effectively promote the recovery of adolescent girls suffering from depression. One of their programs, the Child Mental Health Initiative, offers everyone with regular contact to young people, including parents, family members, teachers, coaches, friends, etc., comprehensive and coordinated services and care across all of the systems. The program has been successful in considerable reducing depression rates in young adults, helping them to lead full and productive lives.

Another key finding in the report showed that older adolescent girls with major depressive episodes tended to receive more treatment than their younger peers, with around two fifth of girls aged 15 to 17 years receiving therapy compared with only one thirds of those in the 12 to 14-age group.

Written by Grace Rattue