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October 29, 2001


Adolescent Depression Research Project Shows Strong Results In Helping Girls Live Happier, Healthier Lives

Girls who have been physically or sexually abused become less depressed, their families function better, and school attendance and grades improve when they receive mental health services, according to a research study being conducted by the Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System. The project, Adolescent Depression Empowerment, is now in its third year and intends to find therapies to help African-American females between the ages of 12 and 16 years who have a history of physical and/or sexual abuse.

"This project really highlights how important it is for families to be involved," said Nadine Kaslow, Ph.D., principal investigator of the project, professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University, and chief psychologist at Grady Health System. Dr. Kaslow is working with Jeana Griffith, Ph.D., associate professor with the School of Medicine. "Families can be part of the solution when they collaborate in solving their children's problems," said Dr. Griffith. Mental health services help kids feel better about themselves and give them a better chance to have a more productive and meaningful life."

As part of the project, a specialized counseling program focusing on family therapy is an integral part of the girls' treatment that has resulted in less depression, decreased involvement in the court system, improved grades and school attendance, and families functioning better. A culturally competent staff is also on hand to deal with girls' identity issues, such as racial pride and puberty. Vignettes and materials are also culturally appropriate.

Thirty girls have completed the program since it began in 1998. The girls, many of whom receive referrals from Grady, community resources, juvenile court systems, local churches, schools, and the Department of Family and Children's Services, have exhibited depression in the form of sadness; irritability; inability to enjoy themselves; hopelessness; insomnia; overeating; problems concentrating; and suicidal tendencies. Some abuse substances, run away from home and do poorly in school. Others are involved in volatile, abusive relationships and get in trouble with the law.

That is where therapy and families play a crucial role, said Dr. Kaslow. Many parents involved in the program often develop better parenting skills. Families are a very important part of adolescent girls' lives," she said. "Both the girls and their families need a lot of support, and help with communication and problem solving."

The project is being funded by a grant from the Turner Foundation. Dr. Kaslow hopes to continue the project with counseling services targeting boys and girls ages 8 to 12.


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