Break Free From Depression
"It's so easy to say nobody understands. And it might be true. But, we?re fighters, all of us who have dealt with depression... What has helped me a lot is not looking at the [big] picture, but having little things inspire me... I just think that?s beautiful, just little moments where you realize hope. And you see hope, and you see beauty in its raw form."
"Breaking Free From Depression" documentary participant
Adolescents are being diagnosed with depression and attempting suicide at alarming and increasing rates; a startling 60-80% of adolescents go undiagnosed and untreated.
Break Free From Depression is a program designed by The Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative (SDPI), a part of the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital. The program is designed for students in grades 9-12. It includes a guide for using the materials in school, a 35-minute documentary, and four structured modules for student instruction. The goals of the Break Free From Depression program are: to raise awareness of depression and other risk factors associated with mental illnesses in adolescents, promote early identification of youth in distress, and reduce stigma associated with mental illness.
The Break Free From Depression program is divided into three distinct sections (see diagram below).
The manual is divided into the three sections highlighted above and includes step-by-step directions, handouts, resources, and structured activities. The structured activities focus on staff development, student instruction, and supplemental lessons that allow teachers the opportunity to continue this important conversation throughout the year in a variety of settings and instructional approaches. The 35-minute documentary focuses on the stories of adolescents from diverse backgrounds as they struggle with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. We learn of their symptoms, the course of their illness, and the methods they use for coping through their own words, rather than through expert narrative. Finally, the documentary also addresses hope – the adolescents in the film do not only share their distress, but also ways they find help and relief, and the daily skills they have learned to manage their symptoms of depression.
This session provides students with an overview of depression and suicide, including specific facts and statistical information, as well as symptoms and how to seek help. While students might have general ideas about the disorder, they may have inaccurate information, or may significantly under or overestimate statistics associated with it. The information in this section can be used to initiate conversations, provide accurate facts, and to respond to particular student questions. This module is presented prior to viewing the documentary in order for all students to have a foundation of knowledge before they are introduced to the real-life narratives of other adolescents.
If you’re a clinician, an educator, a parent or an adolescent who would like to learn more about the work of the Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative at Boston Children’s Hospital, please contact:
Molly Jordan, LICSW
Vanessa Prosper, Ph.D.