Depression education curriculum encourages teens to seek help, review finds

Adolescent Depression Awareness Program was designed to prevent suffering at a time when adolescent depression rates are on the rise

Silhouette of teen girl sitting on floor in darkened room

Image credit: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz / istock

A depression education program that has been taught to tens of thousands of teenagers has achieved its intended effect of encouraging many teens to speak up and seek help for themselves or a peer, according to an assessment by researchers at Johns Hopkins.

The Adolescent Depression Awareness Program, or ADAP, provides select high school teachers with a "depression literacy" curriculum geared to students in ninth or 10th grade in required health education classes. The curriculum focuses on how to recognize symptoms of depression and how clinical depression is diagnosed and treated. It also seeks to take the stigma out of acknowledging and treating depression and recognizes that suicide can be a consequence of depression.

"We believe that early treatment and self-recognition of depression are essential for reducing suffering in young people, and our results validate the overall effectiveness of the program."
Karen Swartz
Associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences

In a report of their findings, published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the researchers say the program was designed to prevent suffering at a time when adolescent depression rates are on the rise.

"We believe that early treatment and self-recognition of depression are essential for reducing suffering in young people, and our results validate the overall effectiveness of the program," says Karen Swartz, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and founder of ADAP at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Now in its 19th year, ADAP has been taught to more than 80,000 high school students. The six-hour training for ADAP instructors is in-person, and the three-hour program is taught to students in two to three consecutive classes. Tools include lectures, videos, group activities, and homework.

For the evaluation, Swartz and her team looked at data collected from 2012 to 2015 from 6,679 high school students in 54 high schools in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Oklahoma. Those students who received the ADAP curriculum were considered more likely to be depression-literate, defined by scoring an 80 percent or more on the 17-question Adolescent Depression Knowledge Questionnaire. More than 54 percent of students were depression-literate four months after the curriculum, compared with 36 percent of students who weren't exposed to the curriculum.

Of the 65 teachers who completed a teaching survey, 30 said at least one student reached out to them for help for themselves or a friend.

Read more from Hopkins Medicine

Posted in Health

Tagged depression