Area schools wrap up programs for Depression Awareness Week

Published 6:18 am Friday, March 26, 2010

Ellis Middle School and other area schools are wrapping up a week aimed at telling students they’re not alone if they face depression or other mental health concerns.

Friday marks the last day of Depression Awareness Week at Ellis Middle School and other areas schools. Kirsten Norby, a counselor at Ellis, said the main message is to tell the students that all students have mental health that accounts for thoughts, emotions and feelings, and mental illness is a common part of mental health.

“We want them to understand that there’s treatment, there’s hope,” said Norby, who also serves as the staff adviser of DAWN, the Depression Awareness and Wellness Network.

At Ellis, DAWN leads many of the week’s activities. DAWN is a student led organization of people who’ve received code yellow training from Austin Medical Center Staff about depression. Grades six through eight all participate in the program at Ellis.

This year, the theme for Depression Awareness Week is “Living Life Well.” Norby said it’s common for people from age 12 into their early 20s to confront depression as they grow and try to find their place. If students learn the symptoms of depression, Norby said they’ll then seek treatment and prevent suicides.

“Kids are so vulnerable at this age,” she said.

Along with a number of events and activities — most taking place over the noon hour — each classroom held an hour-long class session to teach about depression.

The sixth-grade classes also watched the film “Carl” about a boy who is bullied and later commits suicide.

Depression Awareness Week started at Ellis Middle School in 1998, but other area schools like Austin High School, Pacelli High School and Blooming Prairie High School are also using this week to educate students about depression.

“It’s been very well received,” Norby said.