Red Flags Program for Middle Schools

March 4, 2003
With 80 percent of depressed children in the United States going undiagnosed and untreated, the Mental Health Association of Montgomery County and the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Department of Student Services are collaborating on delivering the warning signs of adolescent depression through the Red Flags Program in five middle schools for 2002-2003.

The pilot schools, chosen for their diversity across Montgomery County, are Kingsview, Parkland, Thomas W. Pyle, Ridgeview, and Westland middle schools.

The Red Flags Program presents the signals of adolescent depression in a three-pronged approach to school staff, students, and parents.

The warning signs of adolescent depression have been presented to staff in a brief training session at the five pilot middle schools, allowing staff to better support students who present these signs.

Eighth grade students in the pilot schools are learning the red flags signaling depression during a two-period presentation in their health classes. Students will learn how to self-identify the warning signs of adolescent depression, identify these warning signs in classmates, and know how to activate help and support within their school.

In evening presentations, parents of the eighth grade students are being offered the warning signs of adolescent depression so that they will be able to identify if their child is depressed and how they may activate the necessary assistance and support.

Funding for the pilot year of the Red Flags Program was provided by the Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation and the Bank of America Foundation.

The Mental Health Association of Montgomery County is a private, nonprofit agency providing mental health education and advocacy to the Montgomery County community for 45 years. The association has supported mental health services offered by MCPS by developing and delivering programs such as Red Flags, tenth grade mental wellness classes, and the Kids on the Block educational puppet troupe.

The Red Flags Program will be open next year to additional middle schools that would like to participate. Principals should contact Judy Madden, supervisor of counseling services, at 301-279-3584 or Russell Henke, health education coordinator, at 301-279-3059.
The red flags of adolescent depression are:

· Deep sadness and/or hopelessness
· Long-lasting irritability, anger and/or rage
· Dramatic changes in behavior, personality and or/appearance
· Withdrawal from friends, family and/or activities
· Major changes in sleeping/eating habits
· Marked change in energy, motivation and/or concentration
· Frequent absences from school or a significant drop in grades
· Increased physical complaints such as headaches and stomachaches
· Alcohol and/or drug abuse
· Thoughts and/or talk of death or suicide.

Young people who are struggling with these signs should be encouraged to talk to an adult about getting help.

· Youth Crisis Hotline of Montgomery County: 301-738-9697
· Montgomery County Crisis Center: 240-777-4000
· Emergency Service: 911

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