Depressed youngsters seek help too late

Youngsters supposedly wear out psychologists' doorsteps. Every rough patch would require immediate counselling. "That's nonsense", says Yvonne Stikkelbroek, psychotherapist at Utrecht University. "It's totally the opposite. Youngsters reach out too late when they feel depressed. Hopelessness is a symptom of their depressions: they incorrectly have no hope that treatment could help." Stikkelbroek defended her PhD research on depression among youngsters on 22 April, 2016.

Her doctoral research is the first research project on the treatment of depressions for people between the ages of 12 and 18 years. "It was about time the youth's depressed feelings and possible treatments were mapped out. Especially now that some municipalities have opened fire on child psychiatry."


Among other things, Stikkelbroek researched which youngsters are more likely to develop a depression. "The resilience I encountered among youngsters is both striking and promising. For an example, a crushing experience such as losing one of your parents during childhood did not result in an increased number of psychiatric diagnoses in adulthood." This is an important discovery: this programme shows it is unnecessary to label a child who lost a parent as a future psychiatric patient.


At the same time, a parent's death does have a large influence on the development of anxiety and depression for youngsters who already had such feelings before the parent's death. "That's a risk factor. A fight between the youngster and their parents or friends is another one", Stikkelbroek says.


Youngsters themselves will not quickly think they might suffer from depressions. People close to them, such as parents, families, friends and teachers, are often ill-prepared for this as well. Which signals should set off the alarm? Stikkelbroek says: "Pay attention to things such as increasing fatigue, concentration problems, hopelessness and dispiritedness." In those cases, Stikkelbroek would advise such youngsters to seek help. "Of course, you could go to your student mentor at school or your family doctor. But you can find a lot of help on-line as well. Consider web sites such as Grip op je Dip (Dutch website) and Praten Online (Dutch website)."


With financial aid from ZonMw, the PhD candidate researched the effectiveness of the De Doepressie-cursus (The Dopression Course; Dutch website) and compared it to all the other depression courses. Stikkelbroek says: "De Doepressie-cursus is an effective treatment. In case of moderate or severe depression, in which youngsters become totally unable to function, I would recommend youngsters to report to the GGZ. They can significantly reduce the symptoms of depression in a few sessions."