Glenbrook North students get coping kits, Mental Health First Aid training
Glenbrook North High School students will benefit from a two-pronged approach to mental health support.
From Sept. 27 through Oct. 4, roughly 1,500 Spartans sophomores, juniors and seniors will be trained in curriculum from the Mental Health First Aid program, said Eric Etherton, Glenbrook North assistant principal for student services.
Once students complete that training, they'll also receive a Mental Health Coping Kit full of items designed to relieve stress and provide support.
Volunteers from Community Action Together for Children's Health, the Glenbrook Foundation, the Rotary Club of Northbrook and other helpers met earlier this month to pack 2,100 kits for Glenbrook North students.
Per Etherton's request, CATCH Executive Director Amy Oberholtzer said, that's enough for each class and incoming transfer students. Freshmen will receive their own age-appropriate mental health training in school and then get their kits.
The two leaders are on the same page with these resources.
"The Mental Health First Aid training -- a number of our board members took it and thought it was really good," Oberholtzer said.
From the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, the course teaches people how to identify and respond to signs of mental illness, and how to provide initial help and support.
"We think it, in conjunction with the Coping Kit, will empower students to take care of themselves, and their friends -- and that is a gift from the school. CATCH really does see it as a commitment from the school to support kids emotionally, that we welcome and we think is critically important," Oberholtzer said.
Spearheaded by Northbrook volunteer Donna Sabin, CATCH had produced kits last spring as a gift to Glenbrook North's Class of 2021 -- reeling from the pandemic like all students, but also shocked by the death of one of their own, Dylan Buckner.
Etherton saw that the kits were distributed along with graduation caps and gowns and has both contributed to and approved the material in the kits, Oberholtzer said.
"I feel really good about that information," Etherton said.
"CATCH decided on its contents, but we partnered with Eric in that we want the school to be comfortable and embrace what we've chosen," Oberholtzer said. "We then suggested that every kid at Glenbrook North has one of these kits, and Eric agreed."
Funded by the Glenbrook Foundation and the Village of Northbrook, the kits contain items such as a poster of strategies and grounding techniques to manage stress and refocus, a wallet card with a suicide prevention hotline number; and small items like sensory putty and essential oil designed to relieve anxiety and restore calm.
Glenbrook Foundation trustee Neale Williams, among the volunteers who helped put together the coping kits, said the kits connect with a foundation mission toward "high school readiness."
"The tie-in is to provide support to kids so they're in a positive state of mind to approach academics," he said.
Oberholtzer said feedback on the coping kits given to the Class of 2021 was positive but mainly anecdotal; there will be a more formal survey to learn what students gained from them.
Etherton said the Mental Health First Aid training, provided free, was piloted to 60 seniors last spring.
"They thought it was great," he said.
Etherton said 60% to 65% of Glenbrook North faculty has been trained as well, with a goal of 100% by the start of the 2022-23 school year.
The curriculum includes instruction on different types of social-emotional situations, on identifying signs and symptoms of depression, on strategies to help someone in danger of harming themselves.
"It's an education, but it's also how to engage in conversation," Etherton said.
"This Mental Health First Aid training, to my understanding, is one of the largest-scale trainings that's been done in a school in the country," he said.
"We're really excited to bring this to our students. It's really important for their mental health. We feel like students learning this information about mental health will carry it forward with them for the rest of their life."