Adolescent depression is growing in interest to clinicians. In addition to the estimated 2 million cases of adolescent major depressive episodes each year, depressive symptoms in youth have become indicators of mental health complications later in life. Studies indicate that being low-income is a risk factor for depression and that socioeconomically disadvantaged teenagers are more than twice as likely to develop mental illnesses. Only an estimated 1 in 4 children with mental illnesses receive adequate help and 80% of these resources come through schools. Thus, this study focuses on establishing the importance of depression intervention programs in low-income high schools and designing novel guidelines for effective protocols. A compilation of expert opinion on depression screening, education, and treatment, as well as analysis of previously implemented school screening and awareness programs, are examined in order to understand key strategies. The results of this study finds that a multi-layered approach with screening, universal education, and interventions for those identified as being high-risk is most effective in addressing the mental health needs of low-income adolescents. To ensure feasibility and efficacy, screening should be conducted with a modified PHQ-a test and followed-up by timely clinical interviews by school psychologists. All students should receive universal depression education curriculum consisting of principles such as: depression literacy, asset theory, and promotion of help-seeking behaviors. Extending universal education to teachers would also be beneficial in promoting mental health communication and positive classroom environments. It is vital that those screening positive for depression or suicidality receive protocols geared towards high-risk youths, such as group Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and facilitated mental health center referrals based on individual severity. Effectively addressing depression in school systems requires integration of mental health promotion, depression prevention, and psychotherapy—by taking this multidimensional approach, public health officials and school administrations can ensure that adequate resources are directed to those most in need.
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