Nationwide RCT Single Session Interventions on Depression in Adolescents: COVID-19 edition

Daphne Siozios ’23

Figure 1: As the COVID-19 pandemic quickly emerged in the early months of 2020, depression in adolescents swiftly increased, adding more ignominy to the world’s already leading cause of disability amongst young people. 

Once the coronavirus pandemic emerged, distress due to isolation caused an immediate surge in adolescent depression. While depression in youths was already regarded as the biggest psychosocial adversity prior to COVID-19, newfound disruption of social-emotional support because of direct seclusion resulting from the pandemic has led to elevated depression. By observing randomized controlled trials of brief, scalable interventions, it has been said that perpetual challenges to reducing adolescent depression, such as low accessibility to care and minimal potency of existing treatments, can be improved. 

To analyze the distinctive cause of elevated depression in America’s adolescent population, Dr. Schleider of Stony Brook University and her team have been identifying mechanisms of change and treatment matching strategies to build potent personalized interventions. Specifically, Dr. Schleider used two different types of self-guided single session interventions (SSIs) to evaluate the cause of COVID-19 related depression. One type of SSI focused on teaching the growth mindset of personality, emphasizing to adolescents that they can develop new skills rather than being born with a fixed set of talents. The other SSI coined the BA-SSI, aimed to teach behavioral activation, which is the practice of controlling mood changes via activity related enjoyment. It was hypothesized that out of each SSI conducted, both active interventions would lead to improvements in depressive symptoms from the start of the trials (about 8 months after social distancing mandates went into effect), leading up to a 3 month follow-up period. 

Ultimately it was concluded that online single session interventions could in fact reduce depressive symptoms in adolescents. Specifically, the BA-SSI was seen to elicit more positive responses as adolescents reported an increase in their problem solving abilities after completing the online BA-SSI. They also spoke more highly of the effectiveness of this type of SSI. With easy accessibility and minor time commitments needed to complete, the SSIs proved to be a novel solution in studying depressive episodes.

Research in prior years has shown that social isolation and environmental stress were the compounding factors for youth depression, both of which significantly intensified during the global pandemic. As so, it is suggested that the possibility of adolescent depression will seemingly increase therefore it is important to consider scalable strategies such as SSIs as complements to other modes of treatments. Future SSI research can provide leeway into potentially diminishing the risk of mental health related issues by tackling more ranges of formal and informal prognoses aside from just depression. 

[1] J. Schleider, et al, A nationwide RCT of single sessions interventions for adolescent depression during COVID19. PsyArXiv, 1-21 (2021). doi: 10.31234/osf.io/ved4p

[2]Image retrieved from: https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/covid19/poll-mental-health-covid-19-pandemic-isolation-british-columbia-2282645

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