Research projects

What works for the treatment of depression in young people

Principal researchers

Associate Professor Rosie Purcell

Ms Faye Scanlan

Mr Patch Callahan

Professor Anthony Jorm


Orygen Youth Health Research Centre



Project completion year


Project brief

The project involved the development of a booklet, A guide to what works for depression in young people. The booklet covers medical, psychological, alternative and lifestyle treatments in relation to young people aged 14 to 25 years and reviews the scientific evidence for each treatment. It is written to a Grade 8 readership level and also provides visual ratings (thumbs up or down) for each treatment.

The booklet includes an introduction on the prevalence and nature of depression in young people, and a checklist to help identify depression. It also features information on the availability of the various treatments in Australia, as well as services available for responding to depression in young people.

The booklet’s design is appropriate and youth-friendly. It aims to help young people make informed choices if they are seeking help for depression.

Key findings

The review considered all the options for treatment of depression (medical, psychological and self-help) that are claimed to be useful, and for which evidence exists in relation to their efficacy with young people. The book’s content on various treatments and their ratings was reviewed by all four authors, together with the corresponding evidence for each treatment review, in order to ensure consensus on the visual ratings and treatment recommendations.

The booklet also includes reference to sources of more detailed information on the treatment of depression in young people, and many other self-help resources.

An appendix on other treatments for depression provides an indication of the evidence for efficacy with adults.

Implications for policy, practice and further research

The booklet provides easy-to-read guidance for people seeking help for depression. It can be expected to be a useful resource for counsellors and other health professionals providing advice to young people on sources of help and treatment options for depression.

The review of the evidence in relation to each type of treatment highlights areas where further research is needed to establish the efficacy of the numerous as-yet-untested approaches to dealing with depression.

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