The adolescent years are marked by a roller-coaster ride of emotions -- challenging for youths, their parents, and educators.
It is easy to misread depression as normal adolescent turmoil, but depression, which is among the most common of mental illnesses, appears to be occurring at a much earlier age. Depression, which is treatable, is a leading risk factor for suicide. Moreover, self-injury has become a growing issue among youth.
To proactively address these concerns, District 15, in partnership with Elyssa's Mission (www.elyssasmission.org), provided depression awareness and suicide prevention training as part of the SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program in all of its junior high schools. The program has proved to increase the responsiveness of students concerned about themselves or a friend, and is the only school-based suicide prevention program listed in the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices that addresses suicide risk and depression while reducing suicide attempts.
The goals of participating in the program are straightforward: To help our students understand that depression is a treatable illness; to explain that suicide is a preventable tragedy that often occurs as a result of untreated depression; to provide students training in how to identify serious depression in themselves or a friend; to impress upon youth that they can help themselves or a friend by taking the simple step of talking to a responsible adult about their concerns; and to help students know whom in the school they can turn to for help, if they need it.
This effort started at the beginning of April when Paul Budin, District 15's coordinator of social work services, and staff members from area mental health agencies led two workshops for parents of seventh- and eighth-grade students titled "Keeping Your Teen Safe: The SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program." The workshops included a showing of the program's "Get Into the ACT" video, after which the workshop's presenters took questions from parents, and representatives from area mental health agencies discussed their programs and services for adolescents struggling with depression.
The effort continued later in the month when the district's junior high students viewed the SOS "Get Into the ACT" video and, afterward, were presented with opportunities to discuss the program and ask questions. Students also filled out response cards to indicate if they had a concern they would like to talk about with one of the school's mental health staff members.
Parents of students who filled out response cards to seek out help will be notified if their child has been identified as at-risk. Additionally, all parents of junior high students were notified that their students would be participating in the district's new suicide prevention program, and at that time received a copy of the SOS Parent Newsletter as well as a list of mental health resources.
For information, contact Paul Budin, coordinator of social work services, at (847) 963-3159 or firstname.lastname@example.org.