Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School-Based Interventions for Students with Depressive Disorders

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School-Based Interventions for Students with Depressive Disorders

Article excerpt

Substantial numbers of children and adolescents suffer from depressive disorders, and these disorders bring with them an array of negative consequences. School counselors can assist students with depressive disorders by implementing individual and group interventions and consulting with teachers and other school staff to implement interventions in the classroom and the larger school environment. This article presents a set of guidelines and strategies to guide school counselors in their intervention efforts with depressed students.


Epidemiological studies indicate that hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents in this country suffer from a depressive disorder (Garrison et al., 1997; Lewinsohn, Hops, Roberts, Seeley, & Andrews, 1993; Shaffer et al., 1996). For example, one major national epidemiological study of more than 13,000 adolescents found that 9.2% of the participants reported experiencing a moderate to severe level of depressive symptoms (Rushton, Forcier, & Schectman, 2002). As many as 20% of youth have reported having experienced symptoms of a depressive disorder at some point in their lives (Lewinsohn et al., 1993). In addition, over recent decades the risk of developing a depressive disorder appears to be increasing, and those experiencing depressive disorders appear to be manifesting symptoms at an earlier age (Birmaher et al., 1996).

Students who are experiencing a depressive disorder are at increased risk for many negative consequences, including social withdrawal and a lack of ability to experience pleasure (Stark, 1990), probability of recurrent depressive episodes (Lewinsohn, Rohde, Klein, & Seeley, 1999), development of a comorbid bipolar disorder (Geller, Fox, & Clark, 1994; Kovacs, 1996) or anxiety disorder (Kovacs, Gatsonis, Paulauskas, & Richards, 1989), substance abuse (Birmaher et al., 1996), difficulties in school (Evans, Van Velsor, & Schumacher, 2002), and both suicidal ideation (de Man & Leduc, 1995; Kovacs, Goldston, & Gatsonis, 1993) and completed suicide (Rao, Weissman, Martin, & Hammond, 1993). Furthermore, there is evidence that depression among youth often is untreated (Keller, Lavoie, Beardslee, Wunder, & Ryan, 1991; Wu et al., 1999), an issue that seems particularly problematic among African American youth and uninsured youth (Olfson, Gameroff, Marcus, & Waslick, 2003). Clearly there is a critical need for effective interventions for students with depressive disorders.

Schools and school counselors can play a critical role in providing interventions for students with depressive disorders. There are several reasons why it is appropriate for schools and school counselors to provide interventions for students with depressive disorders. One reason is that depression negatively affects school performance (Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpelae, & Rantanen, 1998). In addition, students with depression, regardless of the type of out-of-school treatment they may be receiving, spend a significant portion of their lives in school and manifest symptoms of their depressive disorders in the school setting. Furthermore, there is empirical support for the effectiveness of school-based interventions for students with depressive disorders. Indeed, several studies have supported the positive impact of school-based group interventions for depression (Hains, 1994; Jaycox, Reivich, Gillham, & Seligman, 1994; Kahn, Kehle, Jenson, & Clark, 1990; Reynolds & Coats, 1986). Finally, the combination of increased numbers of students in need of mental health services and fewer inexpensive out-of-school resources for children's mental health needs means school counselors are often the only mental health service providers available to students (Lockhart & Keys, 1998).

Although there is evidence that comprehensive intervention programs are effective in reducing the negative symptoms of students with depression, there is a need for additional intervention strategies that can be implemented by schools and school counselors. …

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