ST. LOUIS – A new way of combating teen depression is working. It focuses on pediatricians and making sure teens have follow-up care. A team of researchers at Washington University here in St. Louis is behind it.

The CDC reports teenagers’ feelings of sadness and hopelessness are higher than ever among teenagers, especially girls. A mental health crisis compounded by a pandemic and a shortage of psychiatrists and therapists are adding to the problem.

Pediatrician Katie Plax knew something had to be done differently. She and her team with the Washington University pediatric and adolescent ambulatory research consortium spent five years collecting date on a solution. They partnered with pediatricians in the community and trained them how to spot anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Pediatricians are often the first ones to spot a problem. They key to their research was the success doctors experienced when they did follow up care.

Doctors asked questions such as, did your prescription need preauthorization or were you able to get it at the pharmacy? Were you able to get counseling? Did the appointments work for your family? The study found follow-up care increased, and depression decreased. Six months later, depression remission tripled.