An Evidence-Based Collaboration between the University of Michigan Depression Center and the Washtenaw Intermediate School District
Program Overview 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, called the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) program, was added to this initiative.
The P2P program was built on the premise that many mental health disorders first present themselves during adolescence and teens are more likely to listen to other teens than well-meaning adults. The goals of the Peer-to-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign are to 1) educate middle and 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.
Since 2009, more students, schools, and communities have been affected by mental illness and suicide. To address these challenges, the P2P program has expanded its reach throughout Washtenaw County and beyond.
The P2P program was recognized for its achievements as the recipient of the American Psychiatric Association’s Gold Award for academic programs in 2019.
Those interested in the P2P program are encouraged to contact Stephanie Salazar (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions. Depression Center staff are available to help guide users through the manual and by consultation for more advanced needs.
Program Outcomes Each academic year, we assess the impact of the program through pre- and post-intervention questionnaires. There are consistently positive results among both the P2P student members and the student population at large. Findings from the P2P program suggest that it increases mental health literacy and encourages youth to turn stigma surrounding mental health challenges into compassion, so they are not only aware of available resources, but also feel comfortable getting the support they need and encouraging fellow students to do the same (Parikh et al., 2018).
In the 2017-2018 academic year, the middle school P2P program began in nine middle schools and displayed similar results to the high schools. Compared to the pre-test, students at post-test were:
- More confident in their ability to identify someone showing common signs of depression;
- More confident helping a friend access mental health support services in their school or in the community;
- Better able to correctly identify that depression can have a genetic component, that depression cannot be controlled by willpower, and that it is not a sign of personal weakness;
- Able to correctly identify a greater number of depression symptoms;
- More likely to seek help from a phone help line (800-273-8255) or crisis text line (741-741) if they were having a personal or emotional problem that was bothering them;
- Less likely to agree that a student with depression is more dangerous than other students;
- Less likely to agree that a student with depression is to blame for their condition;
- Less likely to agree that they would feel scared of a student with depression.
Read more about the innovative public awareness campaigns: