Because the first sign that a person has a mental disorder often appears in adolescence, one would expect library shelves full of books for doctors, guidance counselors, and parents on the subject. Since early diagnosis and treatment increase the affected adolescent's chances for a productive adult life, one would expect that understanding how to prevent and treat depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and alcohol and drug abuse would be a national priority. One would expect as well a concerted national effort to prevent adolescent suicide and to find ways to promote mental health among the young. Although researchers have made sometimes stunning progress in treating adolescent mental disorders and in understanding ways to promote adolescent mental health, there have been surprisingly few attempts to digest what is known and what needs to be known.
To address this need, The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, founded in 2001 by Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg, convened seven scholarly commissions in 2003. Made up of leading psychiatrists and psychologists, and chaired by Edna B. Foa, Dwight L. Evans, B. Timothy Walsh, Martin E.P. Seligman, Raquel E. Gur, Charles P. O'Brien, and Herbert Hendin, the commissions were tasked with assessing the state of scientific research on the prevalent mental disorders whose onset occurs predominantly between the ages of 10 and 22. The collective findings of these commissions are presented in this book for the first time. As important, our commissions each identified the research agenda that would best advance our ability to prevent and treat the disorder on which they focused.
This book is significant not simply because it synthesizes a body of research on an important topic and charts future directions for research but also because it combines the disciplinary perspectives of those on the front lines of research and treatment. The work of psychologists and psychiatrists as well as scholars of social work is represented here. Noteworthy too is the fact that this book was produced without support from the pharmaceutical industry.
The publication of Treating and Preventing Adolescent Mental Health Disorders is the beginning of the Sunnylands Trust's multistaged effort to increase the likelihood that adolescents with mental disorders will be diagnosed and successfully treated. In partnership with the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, the Trust plans to widely disseminate this volume to scholars and practitioners. Companion volumes are now being prepared for school counselors and parents. A Web site, CopeCareDeal, will speak directly to teens.
The result, we hope, will not only help teens secure the care they deserve but also encourage those who shape the health policy of the nation to tackle the research and create and fund the delivery system needed to ensure the mental health of the nation's young.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Ph.D.
Director, Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands
Director, Annenberg Public Policy Center
University of Pennsylvania