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Peer-To-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign: 2009

Six teams of approximately 4-6 students each, from Community, Huron, Pioneer, Roberto Clemente, Skyline, and Stone High Schools, were selected by their teachers and counselors to attend an educational conference at the Depression Center on December 3rd, 2009. The students participated in educational presentations in the morning to improve their knowledge of depressive illnesses, and learn more about the interactions between mental health, sleep, exercise, and substance use. This was followed by breakout sessions in the afternoon where the student teams worked with facilitators to discuss what they had learned, and brainstormed ideas for how they could use this knowledge to develop public awareness campaigns for their schools.

Student participants were also asked several questions to gauge their knowledge of depression and perceived stigma associated with depression. Analyses of responses to these items suggested some misperceptions about depression even among high school students with a strong interest in this topic. These preliminary findings highlight the need for efforts such as the Peer-to-Peer project to disseminate accurate information and reduce stigma about depression and depression-related illnesses.   

With assistance from faculty mentors at each school, each team submitted a plan for their Peer-to-Peer project at the end of January 2010, and then began implementing their campaigns in March –May 2010. Five out of the six high schools completed the project – after attending the initial conference, Pioneer High School decided not to participate in the campaign this year. Below are summaries of each school’s activities.

Community High School: “Sometimes It’s More Than Just a Bad Day”

Community High’s Peer-to-Peer Campaign consisted of three main components:

  • Two “Lunch and Learn” presentations, featuring expert speakers from the U-M Department of Psychiatry and Depression Center. Pizza was served for student attendees, and each presentation attracted between 50-100 students.
  • A PowerPoint presentation about depression which was developed by the Health teacher, then distributed and taught by “forum leaders” (teachers in classes similar to a homeroom).  It was estimated that this effort reached approximately 80% of the student body
  • A school bulletin board with rotating themes, including depression awareness, sleep, alcohol and other drugs, and tips for staying healthy over the summer.

Huron High School: “The Puzzle is in Front of You, Put the Pieces Together”

The Huron High Peer-to-Peer group used multiple strategies to spread their message:

  • Posters and t-shirts depicting mixed-up puzzle pieces with the letters D-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-O-N and the tagline, “The puzzle is in front of you, put the pieces together.”
  • Dr. Jorge Lopez of the U-M Sleep and Chronophysiology Lab was invited to speak to the Health and Wellness classes about connections between sleep and depression.
  • A video created by the student team, featuring fellow students expressing their thoughts about depression (i.e. what is depression, what would you do if you thought a friend had depression), was shown as part of an overall lesson plan developed by the team and presented to their peers during seven different health classes.

Roberto Clemente Student Development Center: “Depression and African American Adolescents”

The Clemente student team organized an all-school presentation on depression in African American adolescents during one of their weekly “rap sessions” (a weekly discussion forum attended by all students and staff ):

  • Dr. Polly Gipson, a child and adolescent psychology fellow in the U-M Department of Psychiatry, spoke about depression and how it can affect African American youth.
  • Emily Cepla, a University of Michigan senior, spoke about her personal experience with depression that began while she was in high school. Emily’s primary message was that help is available and students should seek help if they need it.
  • The school principal then spoke briefly about how his own life had been impacted by depression, and then opened a discussion with the audience of approximately 100 students. The session concluded with two students performing an original rap which they had composed.

Skyline High School: “Stigma Hurts, Awareness Helps”

The Skyline Peer-to-Peer student team took advantage of their “Skytime” (homeroom) periods in order to bring presentations to the entire student body of approximately 800 students. 

  • The first presentation was scheduled to coincide with National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (May 6, 2010) and was followed by small group discussions including a lesson plan developed by the student team, and a “gratitude activity” in which each student wrote a thank you note to someone in their social support circle who has helped them. 
  • To spread their anti-stigma message, the Peer-to-Peer group distributed bracelets with the slogan “Stigma Hurts, Awareness Helps” to every student. 

Stone High School Youth Advisory Council (YAC): “Stressed and Depressed”

The Stone Youth Advisory Council (YAC) Peer-to-Peer team hosted a 50-minute program for approximately 55 Stone High School students during their “seminar” class period, to increase awareness of adolescent depression and its symptoms, and reduce the stigma of seeking help.  The program included:

  • A skit performed by the YAC students, which they developed after participating in theater training workshops run by Callie McKee, Director of the U-M Educational Theatre Company. These workshops were offered to all of the student teams as part of the overall Peer-to-Peer project. 
  • Emily Cepla, a U-M senior, spoke about her personal experience with depression, diagnosed in her high school years.
  • Anne Kramer, a clinical social worker with the U-M Department of Psychiatry and Depression Center, discussed symptoms of depression and different types of treatments. 

After the event was finished, two students reached out to the school’s health clinic staff regarding their own symptoms of depression, and one teacher took a packet of information for a family member whom she felt needed help.


U-M Depression Center Peer-to-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign Implementation Committee: Jim Cranford, Jennie Jester, Kris Konz, Anne Kramer, Trish Meyer, Stephanie Salazar. Volunteer Members: Mae Adams, Molly Epstein.

Peer-to-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign AAPS Staff Mentors: Kathleen Ardan, Diane Grant, Kristin Mahler, Barbara Malcolm, Christina Montague, Tiffany Moore, Wendy Reinhardt, Claudia Siewert, Robbie Stapleton, Robyn Watson, Kenitra Webster, Kip Wilson.