A professor at the University of Rochester’s Mt. Hope Family Center has been awarded $3.6 million to identify effective interventions for disadvantaged teenaged girls struggling with the early signs of depression, university officials announced Tuesday.
Sheree Toth, executive director of the University of Rochester’s Mt. Hope Family Center and associate professor of psychology, was awarded the grant from the National Institutes of Health. She will use the grant to study therapies for at-risk youths, focusing exclusively on girls from low-income, racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds both with and without histories of maltreatment.
“Girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer from depression,” Toth said. “And female teens burdened by poverty, racial discrimination, or a history of abuse face even greater odds of developing the mood disorder.”
The study will follow 350 13- to 15-year-old girls with depressive symptoms through a structured, three-and-a-half month treatment program.
The study focuses on the early teen years because this is a peak period for the emergence of depression, Toth said.
The research has the promise of finding concrete ways to help vulnerable youths before their teen years are disrupted by the hopelessness, irritability, and even suicidal thoughts that can mark major depressive episodes, Toth said. Early intervention is critical because the illness often triggers a cascade of other problems at home and in school, she said.
“We know that therapeutic interventions work with more affluent populations,” Toth said. She said she hopes this new research will help to make life-altering interventions more widely available in community settings.
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