Depression is common in young people. It has a marked negative impact and is associated with self-harm and suicide. Preventing its onset would be an important advance in public health.
This featured Common Mental Disorders Group Review examines the effectiveness of Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), third-wave CBT and interpersonal therapy (IPT) based interventions for preventing depression in children and adolescents.
What does the evidence from the review tell us?
The authors found that, compared with any comparison group, psychological depression prevention programmes have small positive benefits on depression prevention. There were some problems with the way the trials were done and in particular the results showed that compared to an attention placebo comparison group (a control intervention that controls for non-specific factors like involvement in a trial and attention from researchers), these programmes had no effect. There is still not enough evidence to support the implementation of depression prevention programmes. However, based on the effects seen for targeted depression prevention programmes (albeit with inadequate control groups), we recommend that further research be undertaken to test the effectiveness of depression prevention programmes in populations of young people who already have some symptoms of depression. Such trials should compare the intervention to an attention placebo comparison group and measure whether depressive diagnosis is prevented in the long term. They also need to consider whether the approach is something that can be implemented in the real world. In addition, they should consider and measure whether the intervention produces harmful outcomes.
Read the review in the Cochrane Library.