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Objective: To focus attention on the critical unmet needs of children and adolescents with mood disorders and to make recommendations for future research and allocation of healthcare resources.

Method: The 36-member Consensus Development Panel consisted of experts in child/adolescent or adult psychiatry and psychology, pediatrics, and mental health advocacy. Reviews of the literature concerning youth mood disorders were performed on the subjects of risk factors, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and services delivery, and opinions and experiences of mental health advocates were obtained.

Results: The Consensus Development Panel listened to presentations and participated in discussions. Independent workgroups of clinicians, scientists, and mental health advocates considered the evidence and prepared preliminary statements. Workgroup leaders presented drafts for discussion by the Consensus Development Panel. The final document was reviewed by the entire group and edited to incorporate input from all participants.

Conclusions: Evidence suggests high rates of unmet needs for children and adolescents with depression or bipolar disorder. Training is largely limited to child mental health specialists; general psychiatrists, pediatricians, and other primary care physicians receive little or no training. As a result, treatment patterns may reflect adult treatment plans that are not validated for youths. Effective treatments have been identified and some preliminary prevention models have been developed, but they are not yet widely applied. Patients experience limited exposure to clinicians adequately trained to address their problems and little information to guide care decisions, particularly concerning bipolar disorder. National efforts are required to restructure healthcare delivery and provider training and to immediately develop more advanced research on pathophysiology, prevention, and services delivery effectiveness.

Copyright 2003 (C) American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry