While people might think suburban teens are less prone to depression and other problems that lead to suicide, that is not true, said Dublin Superintendent David Axner.

While people might think suburban teens are less prone to depression and other problems that lead to suicide, that is not true, said Dublin Superintendent David Axner.

That is why the school district is working with the Dublin Counseling Center (DCC) to fund a program in Dublin's four middle schools to help adults and students recognize the symptoms of depression.

"Red Flags" is a school-based depression awareness and intervention program developed by Mental Health America-Summit County, under the guidance of the Ohio Department of Mental Health, said Lucy Smith, community relations director for DCC. It is endorsed by the Ohio Department of Education for inclusion in the middle school health curriculum.

"We are no different than any other suburban district in Ohio or the nation," Axner said. "Our students do have problems with depression."

Rather than wait for an "unfortunate situation" to bring the community together to confront teen depression and suicide, the district hopes to give staff members, parents and students the tools to help them recognize when a student is struggling with life situations, Axner said.

Many of the underlying causes of depression are so subtle that those around a teen are unaware of them, Smith said.

"That is why this program is so important," she said.

The program helps students, parents and school staff learn how to respond to signs of depression, Smith said. It includes an in-service training for school staff and administrators, a video-based curriculum for students called "Claire's Story: A Child's Perspective of Childhood Depression," and a seminar for parents, students and the community.

The program teaches those involved how to recognize the early signs of adolescent depression, talks about the sources and treatment of mental illness and discusses how to recognize behavioral symptoms and dangers of untreated depression, Smith said.

"We want to give our students everything they need to help themselves and others," Axner said.

Funding is the only roadblock in implementing the program this year.

DCC received $6,000 from this year's Emerald Ball, but it will take about $20,000 to put the program in the four middle schools, Axner said. The district and DCC are looking at other funding sources, and the district may match what is already available, he said.

Other options being considered are to implement the program in one or two schools this year and expand it to the others when funding is available, or have DCC staff train school staff this year to recognize the symptoms of depression and begin the Red Flags program in subsequent years, Axner said.

"Our first choice is to do a full implementation this year," he said.