Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

DU faculty work with Aurora Mental Health to treat and research adolescent depression

Two University of Denver professors are teaming up to see if what they’ve discovered in their research will work in the real world of a community mental health clinic.

Psychology Professor Stephen Shirk has been developing effective methods for treating depression in adolescents at DU for years. Anne DePrince, associate professor of psychology at DU, has done extensive research on the effects of violence and trauma.

Now the two are combining their research and collaborating with Aurora Mental Health to treat and research adolescent depression.

“We are getting the benefit of their knowledge and innovation with new treatment ideas,” says Chris Beasley, deputy director of outpatient services for Aurora Mental Health.

With a $500,000 grant from the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), Shirk and DePrince will study 60 teenagers over a three-year period. The teens have all experienced a previous trauma and are suffering from depression.

“How we deliver effective treatment for kids is critical,” Shirk says. “We have a heart-felt desire to reduce their suffering and the family’s suffering.”

DePrince meets weekly with clinicians to collaborate on the treatment techniques that will be used. In April, the clinicians will start seeing patients and testing the new treatment.

“I’m excited about the chance to develop a treatment in collaboration with Aurora Mental Health in hopes we can have a bigger impact faster, rather than research that starts first in the University and later moves to the community,” DePrince says.

Aurora Mental Health is a nonprofit center that provides a wide variety of therapy options to patients at one of their six locations. Founded in 1975, the center saw 10,000 clients last year.

“Depression is a huge problem,” Beasley says. “Treating someone during adolescence frees them up to have a higher quality of life.”

According to NIMH, depression is the second leading cause of disability world-wide.

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