Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Recent developments in the treatment of major depressive disorder in children and adolescents
  1. Haseena Hussain1,
  2. Bernadka Dubicka2,
  3. Paul Wilkinson3
  1. 1 Academic Clinical Fellow and Specialty Registrar in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Cambridge and Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2 Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Pennine Care Foundation trust and honorary reader, University of Manchester, UK
  3. 3 Consultant and clinical Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Haseena Hussain, Developmental PsychiatrySection, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1TN, UK; hh448{at}


Major depressive disorder in adolescents is an important public health concern. It is common, a risk factor for suicide and is associated with adverse psychosocial consequences. The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines recommend that children and young people with moderate-to-severe depression should be seen within Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and receive specific psychological interventions, possibly in combination with antidepressant medication. Cognitive behavioural therapy (in some studies) and interpersonal psychotherapy have been demonstrated to be more effective than active control treatments for depressed adolescents. For children with depression, there is some evidence that family focused approaches are more effective than individual therapy. Fluoxetine is the antidepressant with the greatest evidence for effectiveness compared with placebo. Treatment with antidepressants and/or psychological therapy is likely to reduce suicidality, although in some young people, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors lead to increased suicidality. There is limited evidence that combination of specific psychological therapy and antidepressant medication is better than treatment with monotherapy. There are methodological limitations in the published literature that make it difficult to relate study findings to the more severely ill clinical population in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Young people should have access to both evidence-based psychological interventions and antidepressants for paediatric depression. Collaborative decisions on treatment should be made jointly by young people, their carers and clinicians, taking into account individual circumstances and potential benefits, risks and availability of treatment.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests HH works as an IPT practitioner. PW has conducted consultancies for Lundbeck and Takeda. He receives regular speaker fees from the British Association for Psychopharmacology. He works as an interpersonal psychotherapy practitioner/trainer/supervisor. BD: licence fee from Lundbeck for use of brief psychosocial intervention manual.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.