Peer-to-Peer Depression Awareness Program expands its reach

The Eisenberg Family Depression Center’s flagship Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Depression Awareness Program has continued to grow, reaching a milestone fifty schools with active campaigns in 2022. 

Created in 2009, P2P is an expansion of an initial collaboration between the Eisenberg Family Depression Center and Ann Arbor Public Schools. Since then, the program has continued to grow, first throughout Washtenaw County, and now has programs in four states: Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Rhode Island. 

A Need for Change

Symptoms of depressive illness have become increasingly common in today’s youth. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 4.1 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2020. 

In December 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General identified the critical need to address the youth mental health crisis, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ongoing challenges faced by today’s youth as the tipping point. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted day-to-day life and has had lasting effects on mental health. This shone a light on just how dire things have become for millions of adolescents across the United States.

The Next Chapter

As more communities are affected by rising rates of mental illness and suicide, the need for programs like P2P has become increasingly urgent. So urgent, in fact, students in Perrysburg, Ohio urged their superintendent to adopt a mental health awareness program at their high school. 

Students attending a presentation
Students hear from Stephanie Salazar, M.P.H, Outreach & Education Programs Manager at a recent P2P Conference

The students shared a list of programs, including P2P. As part of his consideration of the programs, Thomas Hosler, Superintendent of Perrysburg Schools, reached out to the Eisenberg Family Depression Center to learn more about the program in districts similar to his own. The Center connected Hosler with P2P staff facilitators at Chelsea School District and Saline Area Schools, two area schools with established P2P Programs who share many of the same demographics and culture of Perrysburg. After these discussions, Perrysburg High School joined P2P earlier this year. 

Perrysburg is just one of twelve schools with newly established P2P programs, including seven new schools in Rhode Island. P2P was implemented in Rhode Island in 2018 when Mark Collins approached the program after tragically losing his son Chris, who died by suicide earlier that year. The partnership is now entering its fifth academic year and has grown from two high schools to seven high schools and three middle schools taking part in the program this year.

Hear more of Chris and Mark’s Story in this episode of The Mental Minute from May 2021.

P2P has also established new programs across Michigan in Traverse City, Tuscola County, Grosse Pointe, and Midland, all with varying levels of oversight from the program's dedicated staff.

A stuffed animal wearing a P2P branded sweatshirt
Pierre the Bear, pictured here, is a part of a popular campaign from South Kingstown High School in Rhode Island | Credit @skhspeer2peer on Instagram

The program offers tiered levels of support, so schools can decide on the level that is best for their staff and students as they implement the program. While there are similar programs across the country, often, they have a prescribed curriculum that can be too restrictive for some districts.

The P2P program embeds flexibility and adaptability as a key component of implementation, allowing schools to make the program fit their needs. Each participating school attends a conference with foundational mental health education to support them creating a mental health awareness campaign for their school during the academic year. By capitalizing on the creativity of the student-led campaigns, P2P allows schools to reach their students effectively. Research shows that students are more likely to listen to their peers than they are to listen to well-meaning adults. Each year, participants are surveyed before and after their campaigns, and the results are analyzed to ensure the program remains effective.

This evidence-based approach continues to result in positive outcomes. Students are more confident in their ability to identify common signs of depression, more likely to seek help and help others, speak up if they know someone considering suicide, and discussing mental health with their peers. Given the critical state of youth mental health in the United States, in-school interventions like P2P are vital in maintaining student wellbeing.

Looking to the future, the program has plans to continue expanding during the 2023-2024 academic year and beyond.


If you are interested in learning more about P2P or bringing the program to your school, please email Lizelle Salazar, M.P.H. at