Adolescence is a key period of risk for the emergence of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). The prescription of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for the treatment of depression in adolescents is an issue of worldwide controversy, and evidence regarding their safety and efficacy is inconclusive. In the UK, NICE guidelines have recently recommended offering SSRIs to adolescents alongside psychological therapy or on their own if therapy is refused. Thus, SSRIs are increasingly becoming a major component of treatment for adolescents. This study qualitatively explored adolescents’ views and experiences of SSRIs within their accounts of engaging in a psychological therapy for depression, particularly focusing on meanings they attached to medication-use.
The qualitative study reports data from semi-structured interviews conducted 12-months post-treatment with 12 adolescents who were clinically referred and treated for depression as part of the IMPACT trial. The interviews were analysed using Thematic Analysis.
Four themes were identified: ‘a perceived threat to autonomy’, ‘a sign of severity’, ‘a support, not a solution’, and ‘an ongoing process of trial and error’.
This study highlights the value of bringing adolescents’ voices into the broader debate on the use of antidepressants in their age group and in the development of future guidelines. Future implications for research and clinical practice are discussed.