COPE Program to Help Teens and Adolescents Manage Depression

Sad teenEach national tragedy involving a young person with symptoms of a mental health disorder renews interest in providing all youths with better access to mental health care. Thank goodness because:

  • Adolescence is a period of risk and opportunity. The young person’s brain is undergoing massive reorganization between ages 12 and 25. These brain developments make for some incredible strengths, such as increasingly faster thinking, but they also account for lags in problem solving, emotional regulation, and appreciation for cause and effect.
  • Adolescents may take risks that can jeopardize their health and contribute to the leading causes of death and disease in adulthood. A range of health conditions can be identified and addressed during this time that affect not only adolescents’ functioning and opportunities but also the quality of their adult lives.
  • Adolescence provides many opportunities to develop habits that create a strong foundation for healthy lifestyles and behavior over a full life span.
  • Adolescents experience an intensity of emotions while forming connections with others and learning to make decisions on their own. When emotions reign teens become vulnerable to falling behind in school. Without energy or emotional skills to participate in social or school activities, they can lose out on opportunities for growth and mastery.
  • If teens are sad, depressed, and/or irritable, they may not form the supportive relationships they need with family, peers, and teachers.

The Institute of Medicine finds that the onset of half of all mental health disorders occurs during this tumultuous time of life, specifically most often by age 14.5. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that:

  • 8.5% of adolescents experience a major depressive episode at some time.
  •  Nearly half of the adolescents who have major depression (48.3%) report that it severely impairs their ability to function in at least 1 of 4 major areas of their everyday lives (home life, school/work, family relationships, social life).
  • In college-age youths the incidence rises to 8.7%, higher than in any other adult age-group.
  • Depression in young adults is associated with an increased risk of substance abuse, unemployment, early pregnancy, and educational underachievement.
  • Suicide, the most serious risk of emotional disturbance, is the third leading cause of death in 14- to 24-year-olds and the second leading cause of death among college students.

But as I indicate in my Special Report Depression in Children and Adolescents, there are incredible opportunities to intervene and change the trajectory of young people’s physical and mental health as well as their social well-being.

Research shows early interventions can temper the progression to more serious and persistent mental health concerns. Depression and other mood disturbance respond particularly well to early intervention and treatment. For example, findings indicate that early treatment significantly decreases the number and severity of recurrent depressive episodes that would otherwise reoccur in approximately 60% to 70% of cases.

Still there are many reasons the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Mental Health finds that only 25% of children and adolescents who need treatment for depression receive it.

The COPE Program

To overcome the many barriers to getting mental health treatment to youths, the COPE program was developed to provide the two approaches recognized as most effective in treating mood disorders in youths in an inviting and user-friendly way. As I described in my report Depression and Children and Youth, these two approaches are

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which also provides protective factors for suicide
  • In combination ,when indicated, with antidepressant medication

These two approaches are found to provide the fastest- and longest-acting therapeutic effects when they occur simultaneously. The COPE program helps teens and adolescents benefit  from these approaches in, short, convenience, engaging and easy-to-manage ways for both parents and teens.

  • Seven brief, 20-30 minutes sessions can stand alone or be offered in combination with face-to-face counseling sessions or a group setting.
  • The program includes a user-friendly workbook for teens with age-suitable content and skill-building exercises that can be done easily at home.
  • Sessions are billable through insurance.

Program covers topics such as:

  • The connection between thinking, feeling and behaving
  • Recognizing and arguing with negative thoughts
  • Common thinking errors
  • Positive thinking and developing healthy thinking habits
  • Emotional Spirals
  • Monitoring moods, thoughts and actions
  • Coping with stress
  • Problem-solving and goal setting
  • Dealing with emotions in healthy ways through positive thinking and effective communication
  • Coping with stressful situations

For youths on medication there is also an informative and motivational section with guidelines on why and how to take medication regularly and responsibly.

You can read in more detail about the program and its benefits at Psychiatric TimesCitations for data given here appear there or are available upon request.

Beginning now, I am offering this program for teens and young adults in Pine Mountain area. Please contact me  if you think your teen could benefit from this program. I will be glad to talk with you about what I offer here in Pine Mountain.