Early intervention and treatment of psychiatric disorders and family environmental risk factors, along with teaching adaptive coping and resilience skills, helps bereaved youths become psychiatrically healthy adults, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

This study focused on children who lost a parent suddenly when they were between the ages of 7 and 17. Children were grouped into a bereaved arm (n=216) and a controlled arm (n=172). Assessments were taken at time points of 9, 21, 33, 62, and 84 months post parental loss. These assessments examined affective disorders, schizophrenia, and personality disorders.

Bereaved children were more likely to experience depression, and children who lost a parent before the age of 12 were more likely to experience depression within the first 2 years. Posttraumatic stress disorder was more common in the first 2 years after a loss of a parent. 

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In conclusion, “[e]arly identification and treatment of depression in bereaved youths and augmentation of family resilience may protect against later sequelae of functional impairment.”

Reference

Pham S, Porta G, Biernesser C, et al. The burden of bereavement: early-onset depression and impairment in youths bereaved by sudden parental death in a 7-year prospective study. Am J Psychiatry. 2018. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17070792