Susan H Spence is an Emeritus Professor in the School of Applied Psychology and Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia. She previously held the position of Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) at Griffith University from May 2009 to March 2014, after a term as Pro Vice Chancellor (Quality and Student Outcomes) from November 2007 to May 2009. Before joining Griffith University, she was Dean of the Division of Linguistics and Psychology at Macquarie University in Sydney. She has also held the positions of Deputy President of Academic Board, at the University of Queensland where she was also Head of the School of Psychology and Head the School of Journalism and Communication. She is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society, British Psychological Society and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Her research interests lie in the causes, assessment, prevention and treatment of anxiety and depression in young people. She is on the editorial boards of several international journals and has also been a member of numerous State and Commonwealth advisory committees and granting bodies in Australia, in the area of mental health. On 26th January, 2016 she received the award of Officer of the Order of Australia in recognition of her distinguished service to mental health research, particularly to prevention and treatment in young people, to tertiary education, and as a mentor.
Depression is a relatively prevalent mental health problem among adolescents, and is associated with significant adverse outcomes. If left untreated, it is likely to persist into adulthood. Treatment is expensive and clinics frequently have long waiting lists. Given the high financial cost to the community and significant personal distress associated with depression, it would be far better to prevent its development rather than wait to treat it once it is well-established.
Despite an increasing number of studies examining the prevention of depression in young people, the findings are inconsistent. This presentation will describe recent findings in the area and will draw on the presenter's own research evaluating school-based interventions with adolescents. In particular, it will examine some of the factors associated with outcome in the prevention of adolescent depression, and will propose strategies that should be explored in future research. Not all young people benefit from preventive interventions and it is important that we are able to identify those who are more likely to respond positively. The research also suggests that particular approaches to prevention are more likely to produce successful outcomes. For example, programs that are targeted to specific groups of young people who are at increased risk of developing depression appear to be more effective than universal programs administered to whole school groups.
Finally, the paper will examine the implications for clinicians and will explore ways in which they can lead or contribute to preventive programs through partnerships with schools, youth clubs, and other youth contexts. Recent developments with online CBT programs for youth depression may also offer promise in a preventive capacity.