Middle School Peer-to-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign: 2018-19 School Year
A collaboration between the U-M Depression Center and Washtenaw County High Schools
In 2007, the University of Michigan Depression Center and 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 the mental health initiative called the Peer-to-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign (P2P).
The goals of the Peer-to-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign are to:
1) educate middle and high school students about depression, anxiety, and related 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 as P2P enters its second decade, with the number of participating schools increasing from five Ann Arbor high schools in 2009, to 16 high schools and 11 middle schools throughout Washtenaw County in the 2018-19 academic year.
2018-19 Participating Middle Schools
“It’s Okay to Not Be Okay”
- Created 13 posters sharing mental health statistics, positive coping skills, tips on how to help a friend who is struggling, resources, and encouragement for their peers to take mental health seriously
- Coordinated a week-long focus study open to grades 6-8 where current P2P leaders talked about their experience with P2P, recruited 6th graders to join the team next school year, and taught communication skills for helping a friend who is struggling with mental health issues through role play
- Held a meet & eat event one morning where parents and students can learn about P2P, view posters, get bracelets & bookmarks, and chat with P2P members while eating donuts and clementines
“When I becomes We, Illness becomes Wellness”
- Held ‘Mindfulness Mondays,’ where students heard mindfulness facts and exercises
- Students heard weekly mental health announcements over the PA, alternating between facts and relaxation techniques
- Created wristbands with slogan “When I becomes We, Illness becomes Wellness”
- Distributed wristbands to peers on Mindfulness Mondays
- Decorated school showcase/bulletin board monthly to highlight P2P’s mission and members
- Held a ‘Mental Health + Stress Relief Spirit Week,’ designed to engage peers in activities that increase mental health awareness and help-seeking
“Speak Up…Stop the Silence”
- Set an overall campaign goal ‘to spread awareness and reduce the stigma about mental health, so that Clague students feel comfortable seeking help”
- Held three mini assemblies in which P2P students helped their fellow peers better understand mental health and why it’s important, by sharing mental health facts and a P2P Member’s personal experience with depression and suicidal ideation through an original rap. After the information sharing, Clark the Juggler performed an engaging juggling routine and shared his personal experience with mental health issues and psychiatric hospitalization
- Created lesson plans to present to 6th- 8th grade-level peers about mental health and led a discussion on mental health issues that students face that followed the assembly
- Designed and distributed stress balls with slogan “Speak Up…Stop the Silence” to peers
- Hung 30 copies of three student-designed posters that promoted mental health awareness and resources throughout the school building
“Talk it Out!”
- Organized brief lessons on anxiety and depression that the entire student body received during advisory (homeroom) period, in their respective classrooms
- Team members crafted weekly morning announcements that focus on signs & symptoms of depression and anxiety, heard by all students and staff over the PA system
- Created and displayed mental health posters around the school
- Designed and distributed 700 wristbands with their slogan, TALK IT OUT! text TALK to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line)
- Held full-school assembly on March 30th, 2019, where students heard about guest speaker Will Heininger’s personal battle with depression and anxiety, and were able to ask questions about his story, as well as their own mental health and well-being
“Depression is real. Help is too!"
- Set goals to improve awareness around depression, to connect peers with resources for getting help, and specifically to increase students’ understanding of the challenges LGBTQ+ individuals can face with respect to mental health, and related care.
- Presented lesson plan developed last year to six new classrooms sharing mental health myths vs. facts and mental health resources, including the Trevor Lifeline
- Wrote and performed a brief skit for peers in health classes, in which a student is being bullied for identifying as LGBTQ+ and has been feeling down and suicidal recently. A fellow student notices the student being bullied is upset and asks them what’s wrong and gives them options of where to go to get help and ends up walking with them to the counselor’s office.
- Designed stress balls with “Depression is real. Help is too!” slogan, distributed in health classes
- Distributed mental health resource stickers stating where you can call, text, or get in-person help if you are struggling
“Sometimes, it’s more than just a bad day”
- Set overall campaign goals “to raise awareness that depression is a real illness and not something that you can just ‘snap out of,’ to decrease stigma, and increase help-seeking”
- Students facilitated mental health education breakout sessions as part of an all-school, full-day “Mental Health Matters” event which included a variety of speakers and workshops.
- Made ‘Take a Heart, Leave a Heart’ bulletin board in which students could send and receive positive, encouraging mental health messages
- Placed brochures and resources about P2P and mental health near the ‘Take a Heart, Leave a Heart’ board so fellow students could access them
- Held a Parent Education Night on March 7th, 2019, where parents could learn how depression might affect their children. As part of the event, two guest speakers, including a high school student, shared their personal experiences with mental health, and the P2P students spoke directly to parents about the ways depression and other mental health issues affect themselves and/or friends, and ways parents can effectively support those struggling.
- Co-facilitated classroom presentations with the school counselor and P2P mentor
- Held Mental Health Awareness Week in May during standardized testing
- Designed and distributed heart-shaped stress balls with the P2P logo to all students
“It’s okay not to be okay”
- Designed a series of lesson plans to highlight and explain P2P, their campaign, and to teach fellow students about signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Delivered lessons to peers in CCA (homeroom) in March
- Ordered and distributed pencils with “It’s okay not to be okay” slogan to every student
- Helped peers understand mindfulness as a concept and a skill
- Created original, unique posters to help educate peers about mental health. Posters were displayed in high-visibility areas around the school, such as drinking fountains and bathrooms
- Made a ‘Positive Message Board’ in the cafeteria where students could “leave a note/take a note,” and worked with students in their grade levels to populate the board with messages
“Depression is real, hope is real 2”
- P2P students wore their P2P T-shirts on Wednesdays to spread awareness
- Developed weekly announcements to educate peers about Depression during February
- Created and displayed posters with positive mental health messaging around the school
- Hosted an information + resource table outside of the cafeteria, with resources on depression and anxiety, as well as giveaways for students
- Created and designed fortune cookies with mental health facts and supportive messages inside
- Presented to peers in health class about depression and mental health awareness
“Know Science, No Stigma”
- Ordered wristbands and stickers, some containing resources like the National Suicide Hotline number, and some with affirmations and positive messaging
- Presented to fellow students in advisory (homeroom), including a game with facts and resources on depression, and giveaways for peers
- Created announcements to be read over the PA with mental health facts and information, and highlighting mindfulness activities for students on Fridays.
- Created posters with “Know Science, No Stigma” slogan, as well as facts and resources, to be placed around the school in areas with high visibility
- Decorated bulletin board with P2P group picture, announcements, and reminders
“Trust to Discuss” “Do Tell Someone”
- Set an overall campaign goal of promoting positive change in the conversation about depression and mental health at WIMA/WIHI, through education
- Created lanyards for students with P2P team slogans encouraging help-seeking
- Hung posters throughout the middle school with resources, as well as the following messages: o “Don’t Tell Someone”
o “Trust to Discuss”
o “Working Together to End the Stigma”
o “Mental Health is just as important as Physical Health”
o “Not All Illnesses are Visible”
“Depression is real – share how you feel”
- Set overall campaign goal to offer information and support to peers about depression and anxiety
- Made a PPT presentation to help teach peers about mental health and P2P
- Gave 15-minute presentations to fellow students in advisory (homeroom) classes
- Rewarded students who engaged with the presentation (e.g. listened, ask questions) by entering them into a raffle for a $5 gift card that would be given to one student per advisory class
- Designed wristbands with “Depression is real – share how you feel” slogan; distributed to peers
These school teams of approximately 5-30 students each were selected by their teachers and counselors to attend one of two mental health educational conferences, on Oct. 25 or 29, 2018, at the University of Michigan Depression Center. The students participated in educational presentations to improve their knowledge of depression and anxiety, led by clinicians as well as presenters sharing their personal experiences with mental health issues. Also included was information on loneliness, alcohol and other drugs, reframing failure, self-care, practical strategies for planning an effective awareness campaign, and time to brainstorm ideas for their campaign with their group.
Following the opening conference, and with assistance from Faculty Mentors at each school, each team submitted a plan for their P2P project in December 2018, and then began implementing their campaigns January–May, 2019.