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New Approach Seeks Better Outcomes for Teen Depression


Five-Year, $2 million NIH Award Enables Treatment Study at Stony Brook University  

STONY BROOK, NY, October 1, 2019 Depression is on the rise among adolescents in the United States; in fact, according to the NIH, an estimated 3.2 million U.S. teenagers experience major depression each year. Yet up to 70 percent of adolescents with depression never access treatment, and when they do, more than half fail to respond. By developing brief, accessible interventions for youth psychopathology in depression, bolstered by a five-year, $2 million Early Independence Award (EIA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Jessica Schleider, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University, hopes to reverse this disturbing trend.

Working with a cohort of 300 teens experiencing depression, Schleider’s project, titled “Harnessing Network Science to Personalize Scalable Interventions for Adolescent Depression,” will gauge adolescent depression symptoms and establish a symptom-tailored treatment protocol. She and colleagues will first establish a method of identifying adolescents’ lead symptoms that contribute to their overall disorder of depression. “Networks” of teen depression symptoms will be created using data collected via surveys sent to teens’ smartphones. Then she will evaluate whether teens depressive symptoms can predict their likely response to evidence-based, single-session, computer based interventions that target different symptoms of depression, such as hopelessness or withdrawal from daily activities.

Jessica Schleider, PhD

“Low access to treatment and the vast overlay of different types of treatments for depression that often take a long time to conduct are problems,” says Schleider. “If teens’ symptom structures do predict whether they respond to specific single-session interventions, results may yield a novel, powerful approach to matching adolescents to targeted treatments based on personalized clinical need.”

Schleider said the approach is designed to find tailored treatments for major depression in youth that are easily accessible, beyond the “brick and mortar” of a clinic, which include brief sessions at a low-cost. Such a framework, she contends, will improve the economic burden of treatment (now estimated at more than $210 billion worldwide) under the current models of care for adolescents with major depression.

“Professor Schleider’s work to promote accessible mental health services for teenage populations is extraordinary,” said Michael Bernstein, PhD, Interim President of Stony Brook University. “Her receipt of the NIH’s Early Independence Award is testament both to the excellence of her research and to the unique promise it holds for improving social welfare.”

“Dr. Schleider is a creative and innovative clinical researcher in developmental psychopathology and evidence-based intervention,” said Nicole S. Sampson, Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “She has already strengthened the research focus and profile of our Department of Psychology since joining SBU one year ago. I am certain that the NIH Early Independence Award is only the first of many that she will receive as an independent researcher, and I look forward to seeing her efforts come to fruition in the years ahead.”

“Each year, I look forward to seeing the creative approaches these researchers take to solve tough problems in biomedical and behavioral research,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “I am confident the 2019 cohort of awardees has the potential to advance our mission of enhancing health through their groundbreaking studies.”

Established in 2011, the EIA is part of the NIH Director’s Awards for High-Risk, High-Reward Research given to exceptionally creative scientists for highly innovative research proposals with transformative potential. Managed by the NIH Common Fund, EIA funds early stage investigators and provides an opportunity for exceptional junior scientists who recently received their doctoral degree to move immediately into independent research positions.


About Dr. Schleider

Dr. Jessica Schledier is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program at Stony Brook University. She also serves a Faculty Affiliate at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and an Academic Consultant for the Education Global Practice at The World Bank. Dr. Schleider completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Harvard University in 2018, along with an APA-accredited Doctoral Internship in Clinical and Community Psychology at Yale University School of Medicine. She graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from Swarthmore College in 2012.

“Harnessing Network Science to Personalize Scalable Interventions for Adolescent Depression,” is funded under NIH grant number 1DP5OD028123-01. For more about Schleider’s research and the issue of depression in youth, see this Q and A.

Form more about the NIH Director’s 2019 Awards for High-Risk, High-Reward Research, see this press release.



About Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University, widely regarded as a SUNY flagship, is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with over 26,000 students, more than 2,700 faculty members and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S.News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 40 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University fuels Long island’s economic growth. Its impact on the Long island economy amounts to $7.38 billion in increased output. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.

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