Break Free from Depression

Break Free from Depression

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Break Free from Depression is a project developed by the Boston Children's Hospital Neighborhood Partnerships Program in the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children's Hospital. It is a 4-module curriculum focused on increasing awareness about adolescent depression designed for use in high school classrooms. Throughout the curriculum, there are didactic presentations, interactive activities, and opportunities for discussion. The goals are to increase awareness about depression and suicide, identify signs and symptoms of depression in oneself and peers, and provide strategies for finding help. 

All of the teaching materials will be available upon successful completion of this online training. Included in the materials are step-by-step directions, handouts, resources, and presentations for the student curriculum, parent workshop, staff workshop, and the Break Free from Depression documentary. 

In order to be granted access to the library of resources, you will need to email your certificate of completion to The certificate will automatically be generated for you to print and/or save and email. Note that you can print your certificate directly from this page or take a screenshot that will save to your computer in order to email to us. Please note that you may also access your certificate after completing the course by clicking "My OP > My Learning" on the upper left-hand menu bar of the site. Click "View Completed Curricula" to view the certificate and print/save.


Course Format

In this series of videos, which consists of the 4 modules described below, presenters model facilitation of the curriculum. By the end of the training, the goal is for each participant to achieve comfort and confidence with implementing and teaching Break Free from Depression in their school or community program. Presenters also provide ongoing consultation by email or phone beyond the training for anyone who has questions regarding implementation of the curriculum.

Each of the lessons within the 4 modules contains a post-survey quiz. You must score 80% or higher to complete each lesson and move on to the next section.

Module 1

This module provides students with an overview of depression and suicide, including specific facts, statistical information, and the signs and symptoms of depression. 

Module 2

During this module, students view the documentary, “Break Free from Depression.” The documentary features adolescents and young adults who have struggled with depression. This module concludes with a relaxation activity and a debriefing session.  

Module 3

During this module, students engage in a case-based discussion where they focus on particular individuals featured in the documentary. Students are also given information on the warning signs of suicide and participate in a discussion around issues that are linked with depression. 

Module 4

This module focuses on strategies for students to use in seeking support for themselves or for a friend. Students are engaged in activities that help them identify trusted adults, access help in school or the community, approach someone they are concerned about, and brainstorm coping skills that they can use on a regular basis. 

Learning Objectives

  • Learn about a universal school-based depression and suicide awareness curriculum that can be used at their school
  • Learn about the prevalence of depression and suicide amongst adolescents
  • Be able to identify signs and symptoms of depression in adolescents
  • Have an understanding of the differences between stress, depression, and grief
  • Understand that experiences of racism, discrimination, and other factors can impact depression
  • Be able to effectively facilitate this curriculum with students and provide trainings for staff and caregivers

Statement of Need

Research has shown that over 2 million American adolescents experience depression each year,1 yet less than 40% of youth with depression are receiving treatment.2 Left untreated, depression can lead to deteriorating school work, strained relationships with peers and adults, high rates of absenteeism, school dropout, and substance abuse.3 Depression also puts adolescents at greater risk for suicide; nearly 50% of those who die by suicide are diagnosed with depression.4 

The rationale for action lies in these alarming statistics. Scientific evidence has stated that programs that teach adolescents effective ways to deal with stressful life circumstances can prevent the development of clinical depression.5 Similarly, research confirms that early intervention with adolescents can prevent the escalation of symptoms of depression to the full blown disorder.6  Early recognition and treatment of depression and other psychiatric disorders is believed to be the most effective way to prevent suicide.7

The good news is that depression is treatable and with increased awareness and early intervention efforts, both adolescents and adults can learn to identify the signs of depression and get help.

Suggested Audience

  • Adjustment Counselors, Guidance Counselors, School Counselors
  • Health/Wellness Teachers
  • School/Community Program Educators
  • School Nurses
  • Physicians
  • School Psychologists, Social Workers

Curriculum Directors

Molly Jordan, MSW, LICSW, Nadja N. Reilly, PhD, Vanessa Prosper, PhD, Karen Capraro, MEd, MSW, LICSW, Shella Dennery, LICSW, PhD, David R. DeMaso, MD


Karen Capraro, MEd, MSW, LICSW, Molly Jordan, MSW, LICSW, Vanessa Prosper, PhD, Lisa Katerman Dean, MSW, LICSW, David R. DeMaso, MD

Release Date

  • Released: May 17, 2017

We would like to thank the Sidney A. Swensrud Foundation for making the Break Free from Depression Initiative possible. 


1Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug use and Health: Mental Health Findings, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 2013. NSDUH Series H-47, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4805.  Avenevoli, S., Swendsen, J., He, J.P., Burstine, M., Merikangas, K. Major Depression in the National Comorbidity Survey – Adolescent Supplement: Prevalence, Correlates, and Treatment. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2015:54(1), 37-44.  National Institute of Mental Health 2013.

2Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  Behavioral Health Barometer: United States. HHS Publication No. SMA -15-4895. 2014.

3Holloway, J. (n.d.). Owen, M., Stevenson, J., Hadwin, J. A., Norgate, R. Anxiety and depression in academic performance: An exploration of the mediating factors of worry and working memory. School Psychology International. 2015; 1-17. Jaycox, L.H., Stein, B.D., Paddock, S. et al. Impact of Teen Depression on Academic, Social, and Physical Functioning. Pediatrics. 2009; 124:596-605.  Yousefi, F., Mansor, M.B., Juhari, R.B.,   Redzuan, M., & Talib, M.A. The Relationship between Gender, Age, Depression, and Academic Achievement. Current Research in Psychology. 2010; 1(1): 61-66.

4American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 2015.

5Walter, H.J. School-Based Interventions. In: M.K. Dulcan  (Ed.),Dulcan’s Textbook of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatry Press; 2010:957-976.

6Walter, H.J. School-Based Interventions. In: M.K. Dulcan  (Ed.),Dulcan’s Textbook of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatry Press; 2010:957-976.

7American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 2015.