Peer-to-Peer Depression Awareness Campaign: 2017-2018 School Year
A collaboration between the U-M Depression Center and Washtenaw & Oakland 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 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 Peer-to- Peer (P2P) enters its second decade, with the number of participating schools increasing from five Ann Arbor high schools in 2009, to 10 high schools throughout Washtenaw County as well as two high schools in Oakland County during the 2017-2018 academic year. This year also marked P2P’s first time in middle schools, partnering with nine local middle schools to address the need for early mental health education, identification, and help-seeking.
The high schools that participated in the 2017-2018 academic year are below:
- Community High School
- Holly High School
- Huron High School
- Lincoln High School
- Milan High School
- Pioneer High School
- Pontiac High School
- Saline High School
- Saline Alternative High School
- Skyline High School
- Washtenaw International High School
- Ypsilanti Community High School
These school teams of approximately 5-30 students each were selected by their teachers and counselors to attend a mental health educational conference on October 24th, 2017. 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. During break-out sessions they learned why those who identify as LGBTQ+ are at higher risk for mental health issues, learned the basics of cognitive behavioral therapy, role played how to respond to peers who are struggling, and practiced yoga and mindfulness techniques. Also included was information on 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 Peer-to-Peer project in December 2017, and then began implementing their campaigns January – May, 2018. Below are summaries of each school’s activities.
- Year-long campaign
- Tear off sheet flyers in bathroom advertising crisis text line and suicide hotline
- Laminated green colored sheets in each classroom with a list of local youth mental health resources
- Created mental health safe space posters that were displayed outside of classrooms and offices. If someone had it on their door that meant they were comfortable talking about mental health issues with their students and in their classroom
- Starting in mid-January, provided forum bulletin messages (all-school announcements) twice per week. Messages either shared a mental health statistic, showed a video on mental health, or provided inspirational quotes
- In February, students screened the documentary “Angst” during school, and in the evening provided the same opportunity to parents and community members . Over 350 people attended the screening and a debrief was provided afterwards in forum for students, while a panel was held for parents.
- In March, they blanketed their school walls with eight variations of mental health awareness posters. They also provided wellness breaks on two Fridays in March during lunch. One wellness break focused on meditation/relaxation and the other was dancing the jitterbug!
- Throughout the month of March and April they visited forums to describe the Depression Awareness Group and explained how symptoms are both common and treatable, and that you’re not alone.
- Throughout the 2nd semester they had a bulletin board in the main school hallways and put up pictures of each of the P2P Members, the posters/stickers they created, and resource sheets
- Collaborated with EMU and Advanced Health class to create a 16-minute show that all forums attended. The content was focused on substance use and mental health. A debrief in each forum was given afterwards.
- First year implementing Peer to Peer program
- Introduced P2P at staff meeting
- Introduced P2P at Snowcoming assembly in February
- Made stress relief bags for the entire school with the P2P logo they created. Each bag had a positive mental health message on it such as “You’re unbeatable,” “You got this,” and “Just Breathe.” Inside the bags were pencils, erasers, and stress balls that had their slogan, “Stigma Hurts, Awareness Helps”
- In March, they held two assemblies that reached the whole student body. During the assembly students, teachers, and youth community members shared their personal story of living with a mental illness. Between each story P2P members shared facts about depression, anxiety, and mental health resources available both locally and nationally
- Organized an assembly titled “Awareness Through the Arts.” Students from Huron High School performed original songs, read poetry, and gave personal testimonials about their experiences with mental illness. In between each performance, P2P Members shared statistics on depression and anxiety and both local and national resources.
- P2P Members had the psychology classes create mental health awareness posters that were posted around the school. Each poster had their slogan and at least one mental health resource listed on it.
- Organized an ethnically and socially diverse group of students to reach as many of their peers as possible
- Created and distributed rainbow-colored wristbands and stress balls with their slogan, “Think in Color.” The slogan refers to a common human cognitive distortion, ‘Thinking in black and white,’ a tendency our brains actually prefer, evolutionarily, because it saves energy to not have to consider multiple possibilities. It served as a reminder to see things on a spectrum instead of making them binary, i.e. “Good OR Bad.”
- Covered high-visibility areas in their school, such as near drinking fountains and in bathrooms, with mental health posters about help-seeking, normalizing mental health issues, reducing stigma, and raising awareness
- Engaged art students to make mental-health related exhibit in school display case, containing ‘P2P’ in large letters, signed in all different colors by fellow students, accompanied by P2P posters and giveaways
- Put on a full-school assembly in April to directly address mental health with their peers; topics covered include awareness, stigma, self-care, warning signs, and personal experiences. Staff P2P mentors received spike in applications to join the P2P program following the assembly.
- In January, P2P Members created a light box display picturing all the Peer2Peer Members so that students knew who to talk to if they want to know more about mental health
- In March, P2P Members hosted an all school assembly. P2P Members introduced who they are at the beginning of the assembly and the purpose of their group. Followed by their introduction, Traci Carson, a U-M PhD candidate, provided information on anxiety and shared her personal story. After Traci’s story, a past P2P video was played talking about depression and they wrapped up the assembly by sharing local resources. Students exiting the assembly were handed a wristband with their slogan on it.
- Stress balls were given out during finals week
- Engaged fellow students during lunch periods in December to increase awareness about P2P and mental health issues amongst students
- Set up and hosted wellness booths and activities during finals week in January, including meditation, yoga, healthy snacks, mindfulness skills, tea and hot chocolate
- Collaborated with feeder school, Tappan Middle, to help younger students in their first P2P campaign and provide positive role models
- Presented in classrooms on mental health and illness to destigmatize these issues and promote conversation amongst peers
- Distributed neon-colored wristwatches to students, as a reminder that “It’s time to talk about mental health.”
- First year implementing Peer to Peer program
- Tabled at multicultural fair on May 11th to get word out about their group
- Provided classroom presentations on mental health and had a youth advocate from Easter Seals share their story living with a mental illness
- Created a bulletin board in the counseling suite for the P2P program. The bulletin board had each of the P2P Member’s faces and mental health facts
- Placed posters around the school created by past participating schools to spread mental health awareness
- Created mental health awareness spot for their school’s Hornet Time TV show
- Covered school in posters with positive mental health messaging, including unique high-visibility location like food service windows in the school cafeteria
- Designed and distributed wristbands with slogan “Not all Wounds are Visible,” followed by the National Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number, “1-800-273-TALK”
- Ordered fortune cookies with mental health facts, tips, and messages inside. Handed out to fellow students.
- Focused their campaign on mindfulness as a coping strategy to build on other initiatives happening at the school
- All Skytime classrooms received a mindfulness lesson
- A complementary student group collaborated with Eastern Michigan University Educational Theater to facilitate a performance on substance use in health classes
- School created a “safe space” room where anxious students can take a break and practice mindfulness and other strategies
- Designed and displayed posters throughout the school demonstrating box breathing technique
- Handed out pencils with their slogan, “Breathe In, Breathe Out” during exams to approximately 1,500 students
- First year implementing Peer to Peer program
- Alongside Washtenaw International Middle Academy (located in the same building), P2P Members created five different versions of poster and printed out ten of each version. Posters were located on doors of main entryways, in the hallway, in the bathrooms, and above drinking fountains. Each poster had a QR code that linked to a form where students can report mental health concerns. The form was accessible to counselors and they would check it during school hours. A pop-up appeared after the form was completed with emergency numbers such as the suicide lifeline and the psychiatric emergency room number.
- In March, they screened “Angst” for students and parents. A panel followed the documentary that had representatives from the school as well as mental health professionals in the community.
- From March to April, P2P Members presented mental health information in classrooms.
- During the P/SAT, P2P Members made stress relief snack bags for students. Each bag had the P2P logo on it and one of the slogans they came up with.
- Created three sets of posters that were placed throughout the school. One poster focused on healthy coping skills, another encouraged students to start the conversation about mental health, and the last poster emphasized why we need to talk about depression
- In April, P2P Members had a table during lunch 1-2 days per week and shared information on resources, coping skill, and mental health facts. They encouraged students to talk to them during lunch by providing a gift card raffle. When students came to the table and engaged with P2P Members, they would be entered into the raffle. Winners of the raffle were announced at the end of every week.