University of York: New research programme to combat depression in young people

A new research programme jointly led by the University of York and Hull York Medical School will develop a psychological treatment to combat depression in young people.

Known as ComBAT (Community-based Behavioural Activation Training), the programme sees the University join forces with the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV).

The partnership will develop, implement and evaluate Behavioural Activation (BA) – a type of psychological therapy – with the aim of helping young, local people aged 12-18 years with mild to moderate depression.

The programme will be delivered across both North Yorkshire (including York) and the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys area, which spans from County Durham to Teesside.

The project will recruit 300 young people with mild to moderate depression from schools, third sector organisations, and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to take part in the programme.

Emotional rewards

Behavioural Activation is based on the key principle that enjoyable, purposeful and meaningful activities can improve mood, energise us and stimulate interest and pleasure in day-to-day life.

BA helps people with depression re-engage with these activities, so that they can re-experience the associated emotional rewards of pleasure and achievement that are lost during depression.

Professor Lina Gega from the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences and Hull York Medical School will lead the project on behalf of the TEWV Foundation NHS Trust. She said: “The ComBAT programme will evaluate the benefits, acceptability and value for money of Behavioural Activation compared to usual care for young people with mild to moderate depression.

“Depression negatively affects young people’s lives, including their personal and academic development, their relationships with others and their sense of self.

“Schools and community agencies alongside the NHS play an important part in broadening access to clinically informed interventions that can change the trajectory of depression and improve young people’s lives.

“Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust has an excellent track record in supporting and delivering studies in Behavioural Activation for adult populations; it is a great opportunity to build on this experience and expand the remit of this intervention to include adolescents.”

Promising intervention

Professor Dave Ekers, Clinical Director for Research & Development from TEWV NHS Trust said: “Behavioural Activation is a well-established and effective therapeutic intervention for adults, and we think it is a very promising intervention for young people, too.

“There have been two pilot studies implementing Behavioural Activation in adolescents, but this will be the first large scale randomised controlled trial for this intervention.

“As we continue to look closely at the mental health of our young people, we hope that ComBAT will bring us to the point where key people supporting our youth can deliver a clinically informed intervention to treat depression. This is not only professionals in schools and other community settings, but also young people’s charities, youth justice services and social care.”

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