A study of former child soldiers and other youth impacted by the civil war in Sierra Leone shows that treating the youngsters’ depression and anxiety can have long-lasting payoffs.

“We were surprised to see the large role that targeting symptoms of hopelessness and depression played across many years of observing war-affected youth,” said lead author Theresa Betancourt, associate professor of child health and human rights in the Department of Global Health and Population and director of the Research Program on Children and Global Adversity at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a July 6, 2015 Reuters article. “When offering health and other services for war-affected youth, we cannot leave mental health out of the equation.”

The study was published online July 6, 2015 in Pediatrics.

Harvard Chan School co-authors included Stephen Gilman, adjunct associate professor of social and behavioral sciences and epidemiology; Robert Brennan, research associate, Department of Global Health and Population; and Ista Zahn of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and The Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University. Senior author was Tyler VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology.

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