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Peer-To-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign: 2016-17 School Year

A collaboration between the U-M Depression Center and Washtenaw County Public Schools

Students participating in the Peer-to-Peer Project, 2017

In 2007, the University of Michigan Depression Center and the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) began a collaboration to provide depression awareness and suicide prevention education, training, and support for AAPS personnel. Beginning in fall 2009, a student education component was added to this initiative. The goals of the Peer-to-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign are to 1) educate high school students about depression and depressive illnesses and 2) support them in finding creative ways to convey this knowledge to their peers in order to reduce stigma, raise awareness, encourage help-seeking when needed, and ultimately, help to promote the early detection of depression, bipolar disorder, and related illnesses. Interest in the program continues to grow, with the number of participating schools increasing from five Ann Arbor high schools in 2009, to eight high schools throughout Washtenaw County during the 2016-17 academic year.

For the 2016-17 Peer-to-Peer Project, eight teams of approximately 5-25 students each from Community, Huron, Lincoln, Milan, Pioneer, Saline, Saline Alternative, and Skyline High Schools were selected by their teachers and counselors to attend an educational conference at the Depression Center on Monday, October 24, 2016. The students participated in educational presentations to improve their knowledge of depressive illnesses, and learn more about the interactions between mental health, stigma, substance abuse, academic stress, and coping skills. Also included was information on 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 December 2016, and then began implementing their campaigns in January–May, 2017. Below are summaries of each school’s activities.

Below are summaries of each school’s activities:


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“Stigma Hurts. Awareness Helps;
You Don’t Have to be Sick to Get Better”

Community High School


  • March was Depression Awareness Month
  • Focused campaign on reducing stigma and raising awareness about depression, help-eeking, and self-care
  • Posters with different mental health messaging posted throughout the school including how to help a friend, mental health treatment, wellness wheel, coping skills, and causes of depression
  • Forum bulletin messages every Tuesday and Thursday sharing information about mental health disorders and resources
  • Presented at half-hour forum classes with “Cross the Line” and “Matching Terms” activities and a video titled “Ending the Stigma of Mental Health” from Bring Change 2 Mind
  • Four lunch time wellness breaks throughout the month featuring yoga, meditation, and a dance party
  • Handed out pins with their slogans “Stigma Hurts, Awareness Helps” and “You don’t have to be sick to get better”
  • Messages of Hope Bulletin board (Take a Heart, Leave a Heart) featuring peer educators


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"You Don’t Have to be Sick to Get Better”
Huron High School

  • March was Depression Awareness Month
  • Presented in health classes sharing information about causes/symptoms of depression, how to help a friend and raise awareness about school and community resources
  • Themed fun fact verbal announcements every day from March 6-31st
  • e. Mental Health Monday, Talk about it Tuesday, Walk away Wednesday, Thankful Thursday, Feel Good/Free Your Mind Friday
  • Displayed mental health educational resource posters throughout school created by Applied Psychology classes
  • Will Heininger presented during a double-assembly event for the whole school, discussing his personal experience with depression

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“You’re Worth It”
Lincoln High School

  • Created video that includes several students and teachers sharing their experience with anxiety and bullying to spread awareness and resources that students can use to access help
  • Planned to edit and present video to health classes next school year
  • Created bracelets with slogan “You’re Worth It” to hand out to health classes

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“Pain Is Real – So Is Hope!”
Milan High School

  • Focused campaign on recognizing that treatment is real and effective
  • Hosted 2 clinical social workers who gave an overview of depression and bipolar disorder and a U-M student speaker who shared her experience with bipolar disorder at a whole school assembly
  • Created bracelets with the slogan “Pain is Real – So Is Hope!”
  • Showed “To This Day” video to art classes and had art class students design posters to be displayed throughout school

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"Heal the Wheel"
Pioneer High School

  • Bulletin board displaying P2P members near main office
  • P2P Members educated staff on symptoms of mental illness, what to say/not to say
  • Positive coping around finals and test times – providing hot cocoa and yoga in the cafeteria
  • Classroom presentations giving an overview of mental health, coping skills, and resources to health classes including meditation and yoga practice
  • PTSO parent education night with presentation from Ben Biermann on symptoms of mental illness and what to say/not to say
  • Referral box in counseling center
  • Stress buster bag in every classroom with colored pencils, coloring pages, stress ball, and list of apps

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"It's Okay to Not Be Okay, but It's Not Okay to Stay That Way"
Saline High School & Saline Alternative High School

  • Display posters throughout the school
  • Announcements with depression and anxiety statistics
  • Assembly with clinical social worker giving an overview of mental health and a U-M student-athletes sharing a personal story with PTSD and sexual assault
  • Stress balls with slogan “It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way”

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"You Don't Have to be Sick to Get Better"
Skyline High School

  • P2P Mentors presented mental health lessons during Skytime to 9th and 11th graders, including showing Stacey Ervin’s Athletes Connected video
  • Created 2 mental health awareness posters focused on recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety and placed them on bathroom mirrors and in stalls
  • Participated in “Next Step” program featuring conversations with Ann Arbor area athletes and their mental health
  • Created an online advice tool where Skyline students can ask for advice confidentially with a small group of students