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Peer-To-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign: 2013-2014 School Year

For the 2013-2014 Peer-to-Peer Project, eight teams of approximately 5-20 students each from Ann Arbor Technological, Community, Huron, Lincoln, Pioneer, Roberto Clemente, Saline, and Skyline High Schools were selected by their teachers and counselors to attend an educational conference at the Depression Center on November 11th, 2013. 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, stigma, sleep, anxiety, and coping skills. This was followed by breakout sessions in the afternoon where the student teams worked with facilitators to gain an understanding of specific strategies for supporting peers and practical strategies for planning an effective awareness campaign.

Following the opening conference and with assistance from faculty mentors at each school, each team submitted a plan for their Peer-to-Peer project in early December 2013, and then began implementing their campaigns in January–May 2014. Below are summaries of each school’s activities.

Ann Arbor Technological High School

"Speak Up When You’re Feeling Down; Sometimes It’s More Than a Bad Day"

The Ann Arbor Tech Youth Advisory Council (YAC) Peer-to-Peer team focused on both advocacy and outreach.

  • The P2P team met with legislators and Board of Education members to provide information about their Peer-to-Peer work, and more broadly, about the Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools (RAHS) to advocate for continued funding.
  • Team members hosted an all-school breakfast to introduce P2P/RAHS, which school board members also attended.
  • The team created a newsletter, which highlighted mental health myths and facts, celebrities who have experienced depression, and resources. The newsletter was passed out at lunch time.
  • Posters and flyers were created and placed around the school.
  • The Corner Health Theater Troupe performed a mental health sketch for the entire school.
  • Various giveaways incorporating the P2P team’s slogans were given out to students, including pens (“Speak Up When You’re Feeling Down”), bracelets (“Sometimes It’s More Than a Bad Day”), and fortune cookies: (both slogans).

Community High School

"Stigma Hurts, Awareness Helps"

Community High’s Peer-to-Peer Team designated March as “Depression Awareness Month” at their school and conducted several activities during that time:

  • The team started out the month by distributing fortune cookies with mental health messaging to all students.
  • The team created a lesson plan which they co-facilitated in all Forum classes. Each Forum teacher was given a “depression toolkit” with symptoms of depression, talking points, and resource lists. The lesson began with a viewing of the WHO “Black Dog” video, followed by a discussion co-facilitated by the Forum teachers and P2P team members.
  • A Support Resource List was distributed to all students.
  • The team designed a bulletin board with a P2P group photo and rotating mental health messages that were also placed in the Forum Bulletin (Community High’s version of announcements), posted on team members’ Facebook and Twitter accounts (with a new message every Tues/Thurs in March), and distributed via flyers throughout the school.
  • The team wore their P2P t-shirts every Friday in March. The goal of wearing the t-shirts was to identify the team members as a resource - not to provide counseling, but to answer questions and make resources known.
  • A banner was displayed in one of the main hallways stating: “Community High School Depression Awareness Month. Stigma Hurts, Awareness Helps.”

Huron High School

"Depression Doesn’t Have to Be a Secret: Don’t Suffer in Silence"

The Huron High Peer-to-Peer group spread their message through various components:

  • The team members wore their P2P t-shirts every Monday to spread awareness.
  • The team worked with Psychology classes to create posters that aimed to increase awareness and decrease stigma around depression. Posters were displayed around the school.
  • The first week of April was designated as “Depression Awareness Week,” which included daily announcements, and informational tables positioned outside of the cafeteria where students could stop by for additional information, resources, and bracelet giveaways with their slogan.
  • Team members introduced their P2P project to staff members and requested permission to present a lesson plan in various classrooms.
  • Student-facilitated classroom presentations included a viewing of the WHO “Black Dog” video, agree/disagree activities, and a PowerPoint presentation that included symptoms of depression, resources, and how to help.

Lincoln High School

"You Are Not Alone"

The Lincoln High team focused on team-building and spreading their message in multiple ways:

  • Team members created multiple posters around the theme of “You are not alone. Visit RAHS for help” and displayed them around the school.
  • The team created a PowerPoint which they presented in classrooms, featuring symptoms of depression and helpful resources. Students were given bracelets for participation in a question and answer session following the presentation.
  • Other giveaways included fortune cookies and pencils with mental health messaging.
  • The team looks forward to further formalization of the group next year, including the election of a president and vice-president, and a more consistent meeting schedule.

Pioneer High School

"Depression is Real, Hope is Real 2"

The Pioneer team noticed an overall increase in student awareness of the P2P group and continued to build on their work by implementing several program components:

  • A bulletin board with pictures of all of the P2P team members was displayed in the Counseling office. Underneath the bulletin board was a box, checked daily by the counselors, which included slips of paper for people to anonymously recommend a student who they think might need help. Counselors followed up with the identified students.  
  • Team members facilitated approximately 30 classroom presentations which included a PowerPoint on symptoms, depression facts, the connection between sleep and depression, and treatment options.
  • The team emphasized that all students have a role to play, including noticing when a friend is struggling. As a result, over 30 students were referred to counseling, with 10 students having symptoms severe enough to necessitate hospitalization.
  • Posters were displayed to educate about the symptoms of depression and where to go for help.
  • Students also raised awareness by wearing their P2P t-shirts and handing out pencils and temporary tattoos.
  • The students created a Facebook page with information on support resources.

Roberto Clemente Student Development Center

"Listen and Lend a Hand; Depression Awareness: Join the Fight for Happiness"

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

  • The Corner Health Theater Troupe performed a mental health sketch, followed by both in-character and out-of-character question and answer sessions with the actors.
  • The P2P team members created and presented a PowerPoint with an overview of depression, facts and myths, differentiating depression from everyday stressors, and resources.
  • Prior to the presentation, the team created posters with positive messages that they displayed around the school.
  • Giveaways of bracelets and pencils were distributed as an incentive to participate in a “depression quiz” following the presentation.  
  • Fortune cookies with mental health messaging were handed out during lunch time.
  • Team members wore their P2P t-shirts as another way to raise awareness. The t-shirts were particularly noticeable in contrast to the uniforms worn by other students.

Saline High School

"You Can’t Grow Unless You Know"

Feeling that depression is not talked about or well understood at Saline High School, the P2P team members’ primary goal was educating their peers about depression facts, and about the existence of the P2P group.

  • The P2P team worked with their school’s School Visual Imaging Technology Group to create t-shirts with the slogans, “You Can't Grow Unless You Know” and “Stigma Hurts, We’re Here to Help.”
  • The students wore their t-shirts every Friday to generate awareness and found that the shirts helped to engage their peers in conversation.
  • The group presented to approximately 200 9th and 10th grade students and staff about depression. The presentation featured a performance by the Corner Health Theater Troupe.
  • The team staffed an information table in the lunch room where students could answer true/false questions in exchange for bracelets with the P2P slogan. In all, they distributed 800-900 bracelets.   

Skyline High School:

"Depression: A Fight No One Can Handle ALONE!"

The Skyline Peer-to-Peer student team’s primary campaign component was a series of educational groups, supported by a poster campaign.

  • Team members created posters, which they displayed throughout the school, as well as t-shirts, which they wore every Wednesday, with the slogan, “Depression: A Fight No one Can Handle ALONE!” and a list of mental health resources.
  • P2P team members also distributed bracelets with their slogan to their peers, as well as to some students at Forsythe Middle School.
  • Team members presented educational information during staff-led, hour-long student workshops focused on depression and anxiety, and practical interventions. Workshops were led by the school nurse, counselor, or psychologist.
  • Topics presented by the P2P members included:
    • Symptoms of depression
    • Stigma associated with depression
    • Connections between sleep and mood
    • Alcohol/drug use correlation with depression
    • How to care for your brain (social–media, healthy eating, positive relationships, self-talk)
    • Effective communication with teachers regarding depression
    • Community Resources

Summary

Based on ideas initially developed at the 2008 Depression Center Membership Retreat, the Peer-to-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign has now become part of an ongoing collaboration between the UMDC and the AAPS, and has grown to also incorporate several schools throughout Washtenaw County.

Financial and administrative support from the Depression Center, and ongoing financial support from the Depression Center Community Volunteer Committee, has allowed us to continue to provide this innovative program. We plan to continue the program next year in collaboration with the Ann Arbor Public Schools and additional schools within the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, while simultaneously pursuing grant funding opportunities in order to “manualize” the program for wider dissemination.

U-M Depression Center Peer-to-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign Implementation Committee: Trish Meyer, EdM; Stephanie Salazar, MPH; Anne Kramer, LMSW; Mary Gass, LMSW; Kris Konz, LMSW.

2013-2014 Peer-to-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign Faculty Mentors: Kathleen Ardan, Bryan Bruckman, Peggy Cavanagh, Colleen Creal, Nadine Ghawi, Beth Kuzma, Kristin Mahler, Amy McLoughlin, Kirby Paterson, Jason Pickett, Robbie Stapleton, Robyn Watson.