Children's Hospital Neighborhood Partnerships | Break Free from Depression

About Break Free from Depression (BFFD)

Break Free from Depression is a project within the Children's Hospital Neighborhood Partnerships in the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children's Hospital. 


Our Curriculum

Break Free from Depression is a 4-module curriculum focused on increasing awareness about adolescent depression and designed for use in high school classrooms. The goals are to increase adolescents' awareness about depression, teach them how to recognize it in themselves and in their friends, and give them strategies for finding help. This curriculum is now available online. Included in the materials are step-by-step directions, handouts, resources, and all of the presentations for the student curriculum, parent workshop, and staff development workshop.


Module One

This module provides students with an overview of depression and suicide, including specific facts and statistical information as well as signs and symptoms of depression. While students might have general ideas about the illness, 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.

Module Two

During this module, students view the documentary “Break Free from Depression.” The documentary is divided into the following sections: stigma, risk factors, symptoms of depression, anxiety and internal thoughts, suicide, and coping. The documentary features adolescents and young adults who have struggled with depression. The module ends with a debriefing activity and time for questions.

Module Three

During this module, students engage in a case based discussion where they focus on particular individuals featured in the documentary. This in-depth discussion allows students more time to review topics such as symptoms, treatment, as well as how and where to access help. Students are also given information on the warning signs of suicide and engage in a discussion around different issues that are linked with depression. The module is concluded with a handout citing resources and places to contact for help.

Module Four

This module is focused on strategies for students to ask for help for themselves or for a friend. Students are engaged in activities that help them identify trusted adults, how to access help in the school or community, how to approach someone they are concerned about, and brainstorming coping skills that they can use on a regular basis. There are opportunities for role plays, read-alouds, and other activities focused on developing strategies for asking for help.


Break Free from Depression also features a compelling documentary that focuses on a diverse group of adolescents talking about their struggles with depression and suicide. We learn about their symptoms, how their lives were impacted, and the methods they used for coping with depression through their own words. They are not actors and the documentary is not scripted. We chose this story telling technique so that youth are able to learn about symptoms and recognize their impact through their peers’ own words. The documentary also addresses hope. The adolescents in the film do not only share their distress, but also ways they found help and relief, and the skills they have learned to manage the depression. 

One such story is that of Igor, an 18-year-old Haitian American young man. During a period of over one year, the documentary follows Igor, and we hear of his long struggle with depression, about his history of loss and adversity, his suicide attempt and how he has learned to cope. We also meet Caroline, a 19-year-old young woman with a history of depression, anxiety, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. While Caroline's external struggles are significantly different from Igor's, their internal battles with depression are strikingly similar. We also meet many other adolescents, their friends, and family members, who like Igor and Caroline, come from varied backgrounds and circumstances, but are tied by a similar experience of growing up struggling with depression.