I spent a lot of time in therapy as a kid, for depression, among other things. On and off until I graduated high school, I’d “hang out” in the doctor’s office, playing Connect Four before begrudgingly consenting to more intense discussions. The effect of these sessions was undoubtedly helpful for me. But one thing my self-involved teen brain never considered was that the treatment could improve my parents’ mental health as well.
Preliminary new research, presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association on Saturday, suggests that it did: When depressed teens go through some version of mental-health treatment, symptoms of depression in their parents lessen. The finding, based on a study of 325 American teens and their parents, points to what might seem obvious in hindsight: Happier kids make for happier parents. It builds upon earlier research showing how mental health can be relational, hinting that mental-health care benefits not just individuals and their family members, but their entire communities.