Depression Education As Primary Prevention

The Erika’s Lighthouse School-Based Program For High School Students


  • Michael Kelly Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work
  • Heather Freed Erika's Lighthouse Executive Director
  • Peggy Kubert Erika's Lighthouse Program Leader
  • Sarah Greibler Erika's Lighthouse Director of Research



Depression, youth, school social work, suicide prevention


Major depression is a treatable and common mental health disorder for youth. Untreated depression is a major risk factor for youth who become suicidal and die by suicide. Recent focus in the school-based literature on creating universal mental health promotion programs have recognized the need for effective depression awareness education programs to assist youth in identifying symptoms of depression in themselves and their peers, and to encourage those youth to seek trusted adults for help. A quasi-experimental design (QED) was employed in two suburban Chicago high schools (n=652) to evaluate the intervention, Real Teenagers Talking About Adolescent Depression (RTTAAD), a video-based universal classroom discussion intervention created by clinical social workers, parents, and youth. The analysis showed that RTTAAD led to statistically significant changes in adolescent knowledge about depression and their stated willingness to seek help from trusted adults at 6-week follow-up compared to a control classroom condition. This study supports the notion that school social workers and other school mental health professionals need to allocate more time to primary prevention work to help build mental health awareness in their school communities and to help prevent depression and suicidal behavior.


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