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How do adolescents define depression? Links with depressive symptoms, self-recognition of depression, and social and emotional competence Fuks Geddes, Czesia

Abstract

Depression in adolescents is a ubiquitous mental health problem presenting ambiguities, uncertainties, and diverse challenges in its conceptualization, presentation, detection, and treatment. Despite the plethora of research on adolescent depression, there exists a paucity of research in regards to obtaining information from the adolescents themselves. In a mixed method, cross-sectional study, adolescents (N= 332) in grades 8 and 11 provided their conceptions of depression. Adolescents' self-recognition of depression was examined in association with depressive symptomatology and reported pathways to talking to someone. Adolescents' social and emotional competence was also examined in association with severity of their depressive symptomatology. Developed categories and subcategories of adolescent depression were guided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) criteria for Major Depressive Episode (MDE) (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000). Adolescents' definitions of depression were dominated by subjective, holistic interpretations and add new information and depth to the previous research on adolescent depression. Depressed Mood and Social Impairment were the core categories, both contained intricate subcategories. The frequencies of these constructs provide a map of the themes and subthemes that pervade adolescents' personal philosophies regarding adolescent depression. About half of the adolescents who self-recognized depression within two weeks (45%),qualify into screened depression (Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale -2" version [RADS-2];Reynolds, 2002) criteria based on the DSM-IV-TR for MDE (APA, 2000). However, this study's findings showed that the mean for screened Depression Total Score (RADS-2; Reynolds, 2002)was significantly higher in those adolescents who self-recognized versus those who did not self-recognize depression. The majority of lifetime self-recognizers of depression thought that they needed to talk to someone and reported that they talked to someone when feeling depressed. Poor Emotion Awareness was a strong contributor to increasing vulnerability to depressive symptomatology. This study provides new theoretical insights regarding the concept and detection of adolescent depression, and links between social and emotional competence and depressive symptomatology. These findings extend previous research (APA, 2000), provide new understanding to guide future research, and have direct implications for research, policy, and practice strategies aimed to better communicate with and help young people with and without depression.

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