Overview of Research by Kayleigh Sopko

This work was contributed by Kayleigh Sopko for the Center of Literature and Medicine's use.  She also kept an online journal of her experiences during her internship, which can be found at http://ks-hcbiomed.livejournal.com/.

The internship I held in the Bioethics Department at the Cleveland Clinic under Paul J. Ford, Ph.D. (Associate Staff (Bioethics and Neurology), The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and Assistant Professor, CCF Lerner College of Medicine of CWRU). This was a great experience for me to have, as it opened my eyes to new aspects of science that are available, those I had not considered before. I carried out my own research project from the ground up; finding research articles from different sources, compiling an annotated bibliography of my findings, and writing a collection and review of the literature that exists about my research topic.  My final compilation, a shortened version, was printed in the Cleveland Clinic Alumni Magazine, and I am hoping to continue working on my extensive review of literature for possible publication.

I have compiled research about:

  • Young care givers (for any illness)
  • Children of affectively ill parents (depressed parents)
  • The role of family/social support in depression

Are we behind in our research of these topics? Other countries such as the United Kingdom have studied years ago the young care givers and the NIMH does not have a publication about what to do when parents are depressed as Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health does. Will simple awareness of the knowledge in how to approach children about a parent's depression help? What can we learn about what other departments have done?

There is little information regarding a child/adolescent's role in care giving or even rights or obligations to a parent with moderate to severe depression. However, children and adolescents have been shown as caretakers for other illnesses, and thus it may be necessary to become aware of these circumstances and be able to accommodate for such.

In addition, children are curious as to a sickness within the family, and with unanswered questions tend to make up their own answers which often times can be worse than the truth of depression of parents. Thus, to what extent should children be told about their parent's depression? There may need to be a balance between protecting and alleviating the burden of care on the children but to a certain extent so not to isolate or keep them from forming relationships within the family by not informing them about depression.

Moreover, there have been multiple studies on the impact of depressed parents on their children which have indicated that these children are at higher risk for certain problems including developing a mental illness. However, despite this research, few studies have been developed in preventing and intervention with these children and its impact. Thus, I believe it is important to implement a form of prevention and intervention with close attention to parenting, family approaches, and childhood development stages that can be studied and used easily by professional health providers in order to aid these children who are at a higher risk for depression due to a parent's depression.

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