Break Free From Depression: A 4-Session Curriculum Addressing Adolescent Depression

Date: 2012
(For resources, this is the publication date. For programs, this is the date posted.)


Type:  Program/Practice, Education/Training Program
Organization:  Boston Children’s Hospital

The Break Free From Depression curriculum packet, including the documentary DVD, is available for $150. The curriculum can be ordered from the Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative website at


Molly Jordan, LICSW
Project Coordinator
Children’s Hospital Neighborhood Partnerships
Department of Psychiatry
Boston Children’s Hospital
300 Longwood Avenue—LM6355.14
Boston, MA 02115
Voice: 617-919-3227

Developed at Boston Children’s Hospital, Break Free from Depression is a school-based curriculum designed to increase adolescents’ awareness and knowledge about depression, enhance their ability to recognize signs and symptoms in themselves and their friends, and increase students’ skills and strategies for finding help for themselves and their peers. This 4-session curriculum for high school students combines didactic and interactive activities. The cornerstone of the curriculum is a documentary that focuses on a diverse group of real adolescents (not actors) talking about their struggles with depression and suicide in their own words. They discuss stigmas often associated with depression, their symptoms, the course of their illness, and the methods they have used to manage their depression. Each session lasts 45 to 60 minutes and can be taught by high school personnel such as guidance counselors, health teachers, or school nurses, or by or community health providers partnered with the school. 

The manual includes all materials needed to facilitate the curriculum and to lead workshops for school staff and parents. It is important to note that Break Free from Depression is not a treatment or counseling intervention, rather a universal program designed for depression awareness. It is strongly recommended that anyone planning to teach the curriculum attend a Train the Trainer Workshop offered throughout the school year by clinicians from Boston Children’s Hospital. (Dates and locations for upcoming Train the Trainer Workshops can be found on the program’s website:

The Break Free from Depression curriculum builds on previous research and pilot programs of the Boston Children’s Hospital Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative to raise awareness of depression among adolescents. Break Free from Depression is based on best practices and is also informed by feedback from clinicians, students, teachers, and school staff.

Program Objectives

After program implementation, participating students will have:

  1. Increased knowledge about depression and suicide;
  2. Greater confidence to identify signs of depression and suicide in themselves and their peers; an
  3. Improved ability to find help for themselves and their peers.

Implementation Essentials

  • All school faculty, administrators, and staff should receive basic suicide prevention training, including school protocols and policies regarding students at risk for suicide, prior to using the Break Free from Depression curriculum with students.

2012 NSSP Objectives Addressed: 

Objective 7.1: Provide training on suicide prevention to community groups that have a role in the prevention of suicide and related behaviors.
Populations:  Youth, Adolescents
Settings:  Schools, Middle School, High School
Strategies:  Identify and Assist, Increase Help-Seeking