Treating depression

Two interesting — and unrelated — stories about treating depression are in the news today.

A new analysis of phone therapy research by Northwestern University shows that when patients receive psychotherapy for depression over the phone, more than 90 percent continue with it, according to the New York Times.

Perhaps it’s a sign of our non-face-to-face generation but the number of people who dropped therapy after getting it by phone was only 7.6 percent, compared to 50-percent for the in-person kind, which few people apparently want anyway. Among patients who say they want psychotherapy, the story says, only 20 percent actually show up for it,and half of those drop out.

Therapy, massage, and other techniques not spelled “drugs” was the message behind a Star Tribune piece today on a movement to treat depression in children with “mind-body therapies.”

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, kids are being taught how to manage depression and anxiety with everything from scented oils to deep-breathing, exercise, prayer and “quiet reflection.”

“I think people are fed up with having their kids medicated as the only option,” said Dr. Timothy Culbert, head of integrative medicine at Children’s, and Henry’s doctor.

The reaction to the article mirrored the national debate that’s been going on for years in the area of mental health and children. Some alleged mental health treatment is a “legalized drug addiction,” another — like this one — said chemical imbalances cannot be ignored in an organ that communicates with itself via chemicals.

Would we tell a diabetic to use vitamins or stress-relief techniques to help with their insulin? This is just another article perpetuating the idea that mental illness is not a real, medical condition needing treatment, that we can “think” our way out of it.

But there is a developing concern about the side effects of a new class of antipsychotic drugs. Prescription rates for the newer drugs have increased more than fivefold for children over the past decades and a half, and doctors now use them to settle outbursts and aggression in children with a wide variety of diagnoses, despite serious side effects, the New York Times said.

  • Amanda J.

    “Depression” has many different meanings. There is depression which most of us experience as sadness and Depression which disables, impairs, and threatens lives. Children, as well as adults are affected. One big difference is that in children depression, anxiety, and associated illnesses are often viewed as behaviors rather than symptoms.

    I do not dispute that some kids may be helped by therapy, aromatherapy and massage. However, there is a slice of children who need medications to live and to safely stay in the community. These include children with intractable major depressions, severe anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, and other developmental disorders of childhood. Some of these kids are on the autism spectrum.

    As a parent of one of these kids, I know that we tried everything else before we turned to a physician for medication. When we did, there were some terrible side effects. However, without pharmaceutical intervention my child would not have been able to continue to live in our family and reside in the community.

    Instead of turning against medications for our most impaired children, let’s push for more research, trials of meds in children, and increased public education about these life threatening illnesses.

    Treatment of child cancers have come a long way in the past generation. Let’s put that same energy into treating our kids with neurobiological brain illnesses.

  • Lily

    Phone therapy is very effective for folks on the autism spectrum who cannot tolerate close interpersonal contacts. Many of these individuals experience depression and mood problems. That said, they probably also help the average joe who doesn’t have the time or inclination to get in the car and go somewhere. It’s an interesting study!!