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It is estimated that 2.6 million adolescents suffer from major depressive episodes each year. Research has noted that symptoms in youth have become indicators of mental health complications later in life. Studies reveal that low income is a risk factor for depression and that socioeconomically-disadvantaged teenagers are more than twice as likely to develop mental illnesses. Only roughly 25% of children with mental illnesses receive adequate help and 80% of these resources come from schools. This study focuses on establishing the importance of depression intervention programs in low-income high schools and on designing novel guidelines for effective protocols. A compilation of expert opinion on depression screening, education, and treatment, as well as analysis of previously implemented school screening and/or awareness programs, was examined in order to understand key strategies. This study found that a multi-layered approach that includes screening, universal education, and high-risk intervention is most effective in addressing mental health needs of low-income adolescents. To ensure feasibility and efficacy, screening should be conducted with a modified PHQ-a test and followed-up with timely clinical interviews by school psychologists. All students should receive universal depression education curriculum consisting of principles like depression literacy, asset theory, and promotion of help-seeking behaviors. Extending universal education to teachers would also be beneficial in promoting mental health communication and positive classroom environments. It is vital that students screened positively for depression or suicidality then receive high-risk protocols, ranging from group Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy to facilitated mental health center referrals based on individual severity. Effectively addressing depression in school systems requires integration of mental health promotion, depression prevention, and psychotherapy. By taking a multidimensional approach addressing all three aspects, public health officials and school administrations can ensure that adequate resources are being directed to those most in need.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)



Depression, Mental Health, Low-Income, Socioeconomically Disadvantaged, Adolescence, Screening, Intervention, Guidelines


Education Policy | Health Policy | Psychology | Public Health | School Psychology

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Mary C Boyes


© The Author(s)

Depression Intervention Programs in Low-Income High Schools