Preventing Youth Depression in a Digital Age: An Internet-Based Approach

Date: May 10, 2018 • 12:30 - 1:30 p.m.
Presenter: Tracy Gladstone, Ph.D.
Location: Cheever House, Wellesley College




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As many as 13–20 percent of adolescents in the U.S. and other developed countries experience minor or major depressive episodes each year. These adolescents have a higher incidence of medical illness and social adjustment challenges than those without depressive illness and are at risk for suicide and recurrent depressive episodes. The public health burden of depression is compounded by relapsing/remitting depressive disorders that recur every 5-7 years in 80 percent of individuals, with even closer intervals in adolescence. Given the substantial prevalence of adolescent depressive disorders, associated functional impairments, the risk of unhealthy behaviors, and life-long illness, it is vital that we develop, evaluate and disseminate preventative programs for adolescent depression, argues Tracy Gladstone, Ph.D.

Gladstone and her team developed and evaluated a self-guided, internet-based primary care intervention, CATCH-IT, to target adolescents (ages 13-19) at risk for depressive illness. CATCH-IT incorporates character stories and design/picture elements to meet current social media standards and combines therapeutic modalities (e.g., cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal interventions) in an ecological model. Adolescents at risk for depression in the Chicago and Boston areas were assigned randomly to the CATCH-IT intervention or to a health education control and were assessed over time for depressive symptoms, depressive episodes, and other functional outcomes. During this seminar, outcome data from this federally-funded trial will be presented, suggesting that CATCH-IT may be efficacious in preventing depressive episodes in primary care for adolescents and parents willing to engage the program at a modest level, and may be particularly beneficial for adolescents with elevated levels of depressive symptoms. Further follow-up will determine the duration of the observed preventative effects.

Tracy Gladstone, Ph.D., is an associate director and senior research scientist at WCW as well as the inaugural director of the Robert S. and Grace W. Stone Primary Prevention Initiatives, which focus on research and evaluation designed to prevent the onset of mental health concerns in children and adolescents. Gladstone is also an assistant in psychology at Boston Children’s Hospital, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, and a research scientist at Judge Baker Children’s Center. For the past 20 years, Gladstone has focused her research on the development, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of preventive interventions targeting depression in children and families.

For those who are unable to attend in person, many programs are streamed live on Facebook and the videos are archived on our website.

The Lunchtime Seminar Series at the Wellesley Centers for Women is free and open to the public. Most programs are held Thursdays, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. at the Centers’ Cheever House location. Guests are invited to bring their lunches, and WCW will provide tea and coffee. For accessibility questions, contact Disability Services at Wellesley College.

Questions: \ 781.283.2500

The Lunchtime Seminar Series schedule is subject to change. To confirm program lineup, call 781.283.2500 or visit

Wellesley Centers for Women