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January 2011



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posted Thursday, 14 May 2009

Majority of America’s 2 million adolescents suffering from depression episodes did not receive treatment in the past year


Adolescents without health insurance were less than half as likely to get treatment as those with Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or private health insurance coverage.

A new report reveals that 8.2 percent (2 million) youths aged 12 to 17 experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Only about two-fifths (38.9%) of these adolescents received treatment during this period according to the report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

A major depressive episodes is defined as a period of two weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, including problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image.

The report also found that health insurance coverage seemed to be a major factor in determining whether adolescents experiencing major depressive episodes in the past year received treatment. Among these adolescents, those without health insurance coverage were far less likely to have received treatment (17.2%) than those with Medicaid/CHIP (42.9%) or private health insurance (40.6%).

Based on a nationwide SAMHSA survey, Major Depressive Episode and Treatment among Adolescents also reveals the types of treatments adolescents received for major depressive episodes. The report shows that among treated adolescents:

  • *58.8 percent saw or spoke with a counselor
  • *36.8 percent saw or spoke with a psychologist
  • *27.3 percent saw or spoke with a psychiatrist or psychotherapist
  • *26.6 percent saw or spoke with a general practitioner or family doctor


In addition, the report shows that less than half (46.8%) of adolescents who received treatment for an depressive episodes in the past year used prescription medication for their condition.

This report contributes to the growing realization that much more must be done to meet enormous mental health needs of our young people,” said SAMHSA’s Acting Administrator, Eric Broderick, D.D.S, M.P.H. “This report, along with the enactment of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the recent landmark report by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine on children’s mental health, highlight our nation’s growing concern and commitment to alleviating the damage and suffering inflicted by untreated mental disorders on children, their families and their communities.

The report is drawn from SAMHSA’s 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which collected data from a representative sample of approximately 22,000 adolescents throughout the United States.




SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, 2009 May 12. The NSDUH Report: Major Depressive Episode and Treatment among Adolescents. Rockville, MD. [HTML | PDF (PDF)]

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