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February 19, 1998

Grant funds mood & anxiety disorders center for youth

Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) and the School of Medicine have received a $5.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a center dedicated to developing treatment and services for children and adolescents with mood and anxiety disorders.

Early onset mood and anxiety disorders, including major depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, panic disorder, social phobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, affect about 10 percent of children and adolescents. These illnesses hurt parent and peer relationships and school performance and put youth at risk for tobacco and substance abuse, early pregnancy, school dropout and poor employment prospects. Early onset mood disorders are the single most powerful risk factor for attempted and completed suicide, the third leading cause of death among adolescents in this country.

"This is why it is so vital to develop and test new treatments and ways of delivering services for these at-risk youth," explained David A. Brent, professor of psychiatry, pediatrics and epidemiology.

The Child and Adolescent Developmental Psychopathology Research Center (CADPRC) at WPIC provides researchers with the infrastructure needed to help them work through scientific issues and provides them with training and consultation that cannot be easily supported by a single study.

"Many young investigators shy away from treatment research because it is so daunting," Brent said. "Because there are so few dedicated child psychiatric investigators in the U.S., we must make a substantial investment in young researchers. The center can provide them with a support system and ultimately help them along the path to success, which in turn will provide much needed help for youth with mood and anxiety disorders.

"The center fulfills this long-standing need," continued Brent. "It gives researchers the ability to take the immense progress already made in our understanding of these disorders and apply it to developing and improving treatment and services.

"Services research is a relatively new field," Brent noted. "And only in the past couple of years have we begun to apply it to child and adolescent mental health. Most children with psychiatric conditions are not identified, and even if they are, they received their care in a non-mental health sector, like schools, the juvenile justice system and primary care. We will examine how treatment works in different service settings so we may learn how best to serve anxious and depressed children." According to Brent, the center will benefit from the emphasis already given to youth with anxiety and depression at WPIC, which has the largest concentration of researchers in the area of juvenile mood disorders in the nation and which for two decades has been responsible for much of the progress in the field.

"The CADPRC focuses on a critical public health problem," said Brent. "Because of WPIC's focus on mood and anxiety disorders, we believe we are poised to make important contributions to improving the life course of children and adolescents who suffer from mental illness." Four pilot studies are underway, with additional studies scheduled to begin each year.

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