Milan High School Implements New Depression Awareness Campaign with NNDC Center of Excellence, University of Michigan Depression Center

Milan High School implements new depression awareness campaign with University of Michigan

Photographed are Milan High School students, holding a Depression Awareness Campaign T-Shirt. The winners, Jenna Pfeifer and Travis Brabec were the first to receive the campaign shirt with logo.JOYCE ERVIN–WASHTENAW NOW

 The Milan community was shocked and saddened when a depressed teen took his life in 2010. Supt. Bryan Girbach immediately took steps with a community outreach program, Washtenaw Alive, offering counseling for students and bringing awareness to the dangers of depression and suicide to the community.

That effort to educate and support continues with the high school staff and students bringing yet another awareness program collaborating with Michigan Outreach and Education programs through the University of Michigan Depression Center.

Principal Ryan McMahon gave the go-ahead to participate in the program after being contacted late last year by program manager for U of M, Trish Meyer, who has been working with other area school districts that include the Ann Arbor Public Schools and more recently, Saline, Dexter, Willow Run and Lincoln high schools to provide depression awareness and suicide prevention education programs that will now include Milan High School.

The U of M program is part of the National Network of Depression Centers which includes 21 academic institutions across the country. One of these centers is located at Johns Hopkins University and, Meyer said, “We are now partnering with faculty members at Johns Hopkins to evaluate an exceptional school-based program which they have developed, called the Adolescent Depression Awareness Program (ADAP).”

Meyer says they want to educate students, teachers and parents about the illness of depression.

“Through carefully developed educational tools and curricula, the program delivers the core message that depression is a treatable medical illness and that concerned individuals should seek help,” Meyer says.

Representatives from Ozone House and Corner Health Center are also on board to help. Both organizations provide mental health services, education, and support to teens and youth.

Mark Rodan, school support, said staff members began training last October and are now working with students to bring a comprehensive program. Cayla Elam and 25 other students have joined the charge by participating in the ADAP program.

The students are working to let fellow classmates know that depression and bi-polar disorder are treatable medical illnesses and concerned individuals should seek help.

“Through ADAP we aim to increase awareness about mood disorders in young people while stressing the need for professional evaluation and treatment,” Elam says.

Chris Idzikowski, a member of the school’s Lifesavers group, sent the following notice to his classmates; participation brings you a chance to earn extra credit, learn safety skills, Lifeskills, have a snack and get a T-shirt.

By participating in most of the series of six CyberSafety programs scheduled at the school health students can enjoy the extra credit and sport a shirt.

Students avail themselves for visits to team rooms and to answer questions spreading the message that in the average classroom of 20 adolescents, it is estimated that one or two is suffering from depression.

High schools and communities all across the nation struggle with social stigmas associated with depression. These social stigmas prevent people struggling with depression from receiving the help they deserve and need. Livesaver’s motto is: “Don’t be a statistic; help fix the problem.”

Students will have the opportunity to learn more through scheduled activities. During the kick-off week students were invited to visit the ADAP table during lunch period.

Announcements on the subject are given daily to include upcoming events that include signing up for an after school performance concerning adolescent depression through Corner Health Center’s Theater Troupe on March 25 and during an assembly learn about Will Heininger, an U of M defensive lineman, who suffered with depression and mental illness.

Students are encouraged to wear a wrist band to acknowledging support, awareness and understanding of adolescent depression.

Kick-off week Peer to Peer Depression Awareness Campaign T-shirt winners were Jenna Pfeifer and Travis Brabec.

Rodan is working tirelessly to coordinate all these happenings, leaving all with the message, “Depression is a flaw in chemistry; not character.”

For more information on adolescent depression and the ADAP programming this month, visit the school website at

Joyce Ervin is a freelance writer for Washtenaw Now reporting on Milan. She can be contacted at: [email protected].