Pediatric DepressionDr. Deborah Serani and Dr. Patrick Possel

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 Tonight’s guests are Dr. Deborah Serani and Dr. Patrick Possel

Dr. Deborah Serani is an expert in depression, specializing in its treatment and living successfully with the disorder since childhood. She is a licensed psychologist in practice twenty five years, an associate professor at Adelphi University, and author of the award-winning books Living with Depression and Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers.”    Webpage:

Planned topics for discussion:

  • Talk to us about why depression is the most common of all mental illnesses.
  • What are the differences between boys and girls experiencing depression during puberty?
  • Why is suicide more common among the elderly than in any other age group?
  • What are some reasons why depressed people may be afraid to seek treatment?
  • What is depression?
  • Is there a difference between depression in children, adolescents, and adults?
  • Why is there this big increase in cases of depression in adolescence?
  • What’s the reason for the gender difference in depression starting in adolescence?
  • Why is depression in adolescents so important?
  • What are risk factors for depression?
  • How do I know that my child has depression?
  • What treatments for depression are effective for adolescents?
  • Can we prevent depression in adolescents?
  • What are the problems with prevention of depression? Are there possible solutions?
  • Is there anything that parents can do to prevent depression in their children?

Dr. Patrick Possel has worked for 15 years with children and adolescents. Besides working clinically with minors, he has implemented 4 large scale studies to prevention of depression with about 2500 students in America and Europe and 2 longitudinal studies with 1000+ participants to better understand the origins of depression.

Related Links:

Dr Deborah Serani  (Wikipedia article)

 Depression  (MedlinePlus references)



General Statistics

  • Depression is the most common of all mental illnesses.
  • Depression affects 121 million people worldwide.
  • Depression can occur in anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age or background.
  • 1 in 10 people in the US live with depression. That’s about 19 million people who experience depression a year… or about the entire population of the state of Florida.
  • Over 300,000 soldiers returning from active duty experience a depressive disorder.
  • #1 cause of disability in the United States, according to The World Health Organization, is depression.
  • 53% of people believe that depression is a sign of personal weakness.
  • 68% of Americans don’t want someone with depression marrying into their family.
  • 58% don’t want a person with depression in their workplaces.
  • 38% believe people with depression are dangerous.
  • Suicide is a significant risk for anyone with a mental illness, but is exponentially higher for people with depression.
  • 80% of depressed people are not currently receiving treatment.
  • Depression is a treatable condition, with 90% of those who DO seek treatment experiencing recovery.

Children and Depression

  • Up to 1 out of 40 babies has depression.
  • 4% of preschoolers has depression
  • 5% of school aged children have depression
  • 11% of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18.
  • Boys have higher rates of documented depression before puberty, whereas rates of depression increase for girls over boys during puberty.
  • Students with depression are twice as likely to drop out of school.

Elderly and Depression

  • Approximately 2% of people over age 65 living in the community (not living in nursing homes or other institutions) experience depression.
  • Suicide is more common among the elderly than in any other age group.
  • Recent NIMH studies show that 20% of older adults have subclinical symptoms that do not meet the diagnostic criteria for depression yet need increased health services.

Gender Differences


  •  15% of women experience postpartum depression.
  •  40% of women will not seek help for depression.
  •  Women internalize their depression, presenting with sadness and self-blame.


  •   7% of men experience depression. That’s over 6 million Americans.
  •   1 in 10 new fathers experience postpartum depression.
  •  50% of men will not seek help for depression.
  •  Men externalize when depressed, presenting with more irritability and anger.


Barney, L.J., Griffiths, K., Christensen, H. & Jorm, A. (2009) Exploring the nature of stigmatising beliefs about depression and help-seeking: Implications for reducing stigma. BMC Public Health, 9 (61): 1-11.

Bromet, E., Andrade, L. et al. (2011). Cross-national epidemiology of DSM-IV major depressive episode. BMC Medicine: 9(1): 90-101.

Dingenfelder, S. (2009). Stigma: Alive and well. Monitor on Psychology, 40(6), 56.

Eisenberg, D.; Goldstein, E. and Hunt, J. (2009). Mental health and academic success. B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 9(1): 40-49.

Gotlib, I. A. and Hammen, C. L. (2010). Handbook of depression. New York: Guilford Press.

Griffiths, K.M., Nakane, Y. et. al (2006). Stigma in response to mental disorders: a comparison of Australia and Japan. BMC Psychiatry,6(21):1-21.

Kessler, R.C., Cox, B.J., et. al. (2011). The effects of latent variables in the development of comorbidity among common mental disorders. Depression and Anxiety 28(1), 29-39.

Luby, J., Si, X. Belden, A.C., Tandon, M. & Spitznagel, E. (2009). Preschool depression: Homotypic continuity and course over 24 months. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68(8):897-905.

Nock, M.K., Borges, G. & Ono, Y. (2012). Suicide: Global perspectives from the WHO World Mental Health Survey. New York: Cambridge University Press

Piccinello, M. & Wilkinson, G. (2000). Gender differences in depression. The British Journal of Psychiatry,177: 486-492,

World Health Organization (2011). Mental health atlas. Geneva: World Health Organization


Ten Myths about Pediatric Depression
Dr. Deborah Serani

1.    Myth: Babies and children cannot be diagnosed with depression.
False. Babies and children can be diagnosed with a mood disorder. Called Pediatric Depression, this major health concern reveals that 4% of preschool aged children, 5% of school-aged children and 11% percent of adolescents meet the criteria for major depression.

2.    Myth: My pediatrician says my child’s moodiness it just a phase – and not to worry.  
False. General practitioners and pediatricians, while trained in aspects of mental illness, are not specialists. If you’re on the receiving end of a don’t-worry-it’s-just-a-stage response from your family physician, seek a second opinion from a mental health specialist.

3.    Myth: Good parents can always detect if their child is depressed.
False. Most children who suffer with depression keep their thoughts and feelings masked. The only way for parents to understand depression is to be aware of the age specific behaviors and symptoms. Depression is not a result of bad parenting.

4.    Myth: Pediatric Depression will go away on its own.
False: A serious mental illness cannot be willed away or brushed aside with a change in attitude. Ignoring the problem doesn’t give it the slip either. Depression is serious, but treatable illness, with a success rates of upwards of 80% for children who receive intervention.
5.    Myth: Talking about depression gives kids ideas and makes things worse.
False. Talking about depression with your child actually helps to reduce symptoms. Support and encouragement through open communication are significantly meaningful. This lets your child know he’s not alone, is loved and cared for.

6.    Myth: The risk of suicide for children is greatly exaggerated.
False. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in adolescents ages 15 to 24, and is the 6th leading cause of death in children ages 5 to14. Suicide is significantly linked to depression, so early diagnosis and treatment of pediatric depression are extremely important.

7.    Myth: Antidepressants will change your child’s personality.
False. Antidepressants normalize the ranges of moods in children who have a mood disorder – and will not change your child’s personality what-so-ever.

8.    Myth: Once a child starts taking antidepressants, he is on it for the rest of his life.
False. The majority of children who take antidepressant medication will stop their prescription in a careful and modified manner when recovery from depression occurs. This clinical state of recovery takes about a year or so to achieve.

9.    Myth: When a depressed child refuses help, there’s nothing parents can do.
False.  If your child refuses to go to talk therapy or take medication, there are things you can do. You can seek therapy with a trained mental health specialist to learn how to help your child in spite of the fact that he won’t attend sessions. In a crisis situation, you can drive your child to the nearest hospital emergency room, or contact family, friends or the local police for assistance in getting him there.

10.    Myth: Nowadays, stigma for children and teens living with depression has declined.
False. Though evidence-based research has shown depression is a real illness, stigma is on the rise instead of on the decline. There is so much shame regarding mental illness that statistics show only 1 in 5 actually seeks treatment. Studies have shown that knowledge of depression appears insufficient to dispel stigma. What does reduce stigma? Learning about positive and inspiring stories of people living successfully with depression.


Serani, D. (2013). Depression and Your Child: A Guidebook for Parents and Caregivers. Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield.


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Happy Father’s Day, Y’all!

The idea of Father’s Day was conceived slightly more than a century ago by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Wash., while she listened to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a widowed Civil War veteran who was left to raise his six children on a farm. A day in June was chosen for the first Father’s Day celebration, June 17, 1910, proclaimed by Spokane’s mayor because it was the month of Smart’s birth. The first presidential proclamation honoring fathers was issued in 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Father’s Day has been celebrated annually since 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed the public law that made it permanent.   More info:  Facts for Features: Father’s Day


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