New walk in Naperville to help teens learn about mental health

 
 
Updated 3/29/2018 5:36 PM

An event in Naperville will add mental health awareness and suicide prevention to the causes supported by teens at the Alive Center in Naperville.

Since the center opened near Naperville North High School in 2015, teens have gotten involved with music lessons, tutoring, healthy cooking classes, a book drive for flood victims, a fundraiser to create a lab for science, technology, engineering and math, and efforts to promote diversity and acceptance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Now they are planning a Walk 4 Life at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 14, to help their peers -- and parents -- learn where, why and how to get help for conditions of the mind.

Led by 2017 Naperville Central High School graduate Angela Adamo and 20 teen members of the Alive Center, the event aims to get participants to open up and talk, not ball up and hide, when it comes to mental health.

"One of the biggest things we can do to prevent suicide is talking about it," Adamo said. "This is how we can help."

Adamo's mother is a licensed clinical social worker, so having conversations about mental health has never been taboo in her home.

"When I was struggling a lot, I always knew what to do and where to go," she said. "I saw a lot of people who were having the same problems and didn't know they had resources at their fingertips, for free sometimes."

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Walk 4 Life aims to change that. It will begin with music and a warmup at the Alive Center, 500 W. 5th Ave., Naperville.

Participants then will walk a loop around the center and return to the back of the site, where KidsMatter, Suicide Prevention Services of America, Evolution Counseling and Corey's Goal will have booths. The setup will include a DJ, bounce houses, food trucks and ice cream for a fun environment, despite the serious topic.

"It's going to be kind of like a festival, but you're going to learn a lot while you're there," said Adamo, now a freshman at Illinois State University.

She wants participants to learn that seeking help doesn't mean there's "something wrong with you."

"You are not alone. There is no shame in needing help," Adamo said. "You do not need to be diagnosed with something to go see the social worker. Sometimes if you just need to talk, you can go talk."

Each organization with a booth also has a message. Suicide Prevention Services of America, for example, will promote its suicide hotline at (800) 273-8255 and its depression hotline at (630) 482-9696, both staffed by volunteers in Batavia. The hotline service and the Alive Center will split the proceeds raised from admission fees at the walk.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Corey's Goal, meanwhile, will promote a dual message about student rights and teen brain development, co-founder Douglas Walgren of Naperville said.

Walgren and his wife, Maureen, started the organization after the death by suicide in January 2017 of their 16-year-old son, Corey Walgren, who took his life after being questioned by administrators and a school resource officer about potential wrongdoing.

Now they are working to ensure students know they have the right to ask for a parent before responding to questions and to ensure school officials remember the teenage brain can be prone to rash decisions.

"You would think a lot of this is obvious," Walgren said, "and unfortunately it isn't."

• If you or a loved one are in crisis, visit the nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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