This is the second of my new handout series: Medications and Mood: Handouts for Patient Education. This time it is for Sertraline, another Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), that is commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. In case you missed it, my prior post on Fluoxetine explored SSRIs and the Black Box Warning, check it out!

Sertraline has FDA approval for the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, also known as OCD, in children as young as 6 years of age.

You and your child’s doctor may consider the need for medication when treating OCD or depression and to improve mood and behavior. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released revised guidelines calling for all children 12 years and older to be screened for depression during well child visits. If the screening is suggestive of depression, pediatricians are encouraged to ask additional questions to understand the context, how long the adolescent has been experiencing symptoms, and how it is impacting them day to day. They will interview the adolescent alone to encourage honesty, but will also ask questions of the parent. In doing so, they will also be able to characterize the severity of the depression and begin to develop a treatment plan with the family.

RELATED: Adolescent Depression: Be Ready to Ask – and Respond (AAP Voices Blog post)

As I have said before, medication is only one possibility and may not be needed, especially if symptoms are mild. However, there are cases where symptoms are causing the child or adolescent to miss out on fun activities or causing them to withdraw from meaningful relationships, make it hard to keep up with school responsibilities or impact their self-esteem. Sometimes they may feel so hopeless and helpless, like there is no way out, that they may be contemplating suicide. Your child’s doctor can help determine the best course of action and whether medication or more intensive treatment is required.

When medications are needed, nothing beats clear information to help the patient and family understand the benefits and risks, as well as what to expect. Having everyone on the same page is essential to ensuring consistent follow through on recommendations to take medication, work closely with a therapist and/or other self-care activities.

Here is my latest medication fact sheet for Sertraline. As with any of my handouts, it is not a substitute for talking with your child’s doctor. If you are a parent of a child or teen with anxiety or depression, please make sure to use this handout to talk about your child’s treatment plan with his or her doctor.

Sneak peek–half sample

RELATED: LISTEN–> Healthy Children Radio: Children and Depression (

Need more information? Check out: Adolescent Depression: What Parents Can Do to Help (

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Written by

Nerissa Bauer

I am a behavioral pediatrician, consultant, child advocate and blogger. I am a wife, mommy to 2 amazing children and 2 golden retrievers. Love cooking, travel, reading, tap and creating.