Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 takes steps to combat mental illness in students

New program looks at signs of suicide

CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 is taking steps to combat mental illness among its student population.

The district recently held a one-day suicide prevention and depression awareness program for seventh- and eighth-graders at Lundahl, Bernotas and Hannah Beardsley middle schools.

As part of the “Signs of Suicide” program, middle school students watched a video, participated in group discussions and took a brief depression screening test.

District 47 assistant director of special education Kristin Schmidt said in a news release from the district that addressing the social-emotional needs of students is critical to creating an effective learning environment.

“Screeners provide us with information about students’ needs, which helps us develop instruction and support proactively,” Schmidt said. “We know that students whose social-emotional needs are not taken care of are unavailable to learn within an academic setting.”

In 2015, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24, according to the American Association of Suicidology.

Listed on the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration’s national registry of evidence-based programs and practices, the SOS program has proved to reduce self-reported suicide attempts by 40 percent to
64 percent in randomized control studies. 

The SOS program was funded and supported for one year in District 47 schools by Elyssa’s Mission, a Northbrook-based foundation that provides help, support and suicide prevention programs to public and private schools. It is the only organization in Illinois to fund, distribute and implement the SOS program.

Schmidt coordinates social-emotional learning efforts in the district and recently joined the board of the National Alliance for Mental Illness in Crystal Lake.

It’s not the first year the district has offered mental health-related programming. A three-day depression awareness program called Erika’s Lighthouse was presented to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders last year. It was introduced to only sixth-graders this year, while the new SOS package was designated for seventh- and eighth-grade students.

The district also implemented a program in recent years called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, which focuses on teaching, modeling and reinforcing positive behavior. The district earned recognition in August for the program from the Midwest PBIS Network.

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