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Goal Statement: The goal of this project is to increase awareness of adolescent depressive disorders and to identify resources and develop a plan to address risk factors.

Significant Findings: Central Ohio’s adolescent population faces challenges related to chronic disease, mental health, and addiction. Mental health challenges are increasing among high school students with a notable rise in depressive symptoms and depressive disorders. When depressive symptoms are left untreated, individuals may experience significant negative physical, social, and academic consequences. Additionally, risk-taking behaviors often increase and comorbid disorders become more likely. People are affected by their environments, and the socio-ecological model highlights individual, relationship, community, and societal domains (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022b). Each of these areas can pose unique risk and protective factors for depressive disorders. Prevention efforts can be tailored to meet the needs of the population and the risks they face as well as the protective resources they have available. One research-backed theory of prevention is Social Cognitive Theory, and a core tenet of this model is the importance of self-efficacy (National Cancer Institute, 2005). Studies connect low self-efficacy beliefs with higher levels of depressive symptoms, so evidence-based prevention programs should include interventions that target improved self-efficacy (Tak et al., 2017). Universal school-based cognitive behavioral therapy is a program that is offered to all students regardless of mental health status and it addresses problem-solving skills, teaches regulation strategies, and focuses on adaptive thought and behavior patterns (Guide to Community 4 Preventative Services, 2019b). Clinicians should also consider how the problem has a disproportionate adverse effect on diverse populations such as LGBTQ+ youth. Finally, reducing the risk of depressive disorders necessitates advocacy at institutional, community, and public policy levels.

Objectives/Strategies/Interventions/Next Steps: In light of these findings, clinicians should consider the following interventions and next steps. First, adolescents need interventions specifically designed to enhance self-efficacy beliefs. Second, teenagers need access to universal-school based cognitive behavioral therapy which equips all students with essential coping skills. Third, stakeholders should consider targeted school-based cognitive behavioral therapy for individuals who are at a higher risk for developing depressive disorders. Diverse groups, such as LGBTQ+ students, may especially benefit from targeted interventions as long as pertinent ethical stipulations are followed. Fourth, advocacy efforts must address the unbalanced ratio of school counselors to students. Fifth, caregiver training is an essential component of mitigating the stigma surrounding mental illness and help-seeking behaviors.