Chicago public schools are launching a new initiative this month to address the emotional, psychological and social health of students as levels of depression and hopelessness among teens across the country have risen.
As part of Mental Health Month, the CPS will be the first school district in the United States to participate in “Please stay”Is an initiative that focuses on suicide prevention and mental health priority for students dealing with increased levels of anxiety and stress.
“Since we came back from distance learning, the children are different: they are different, they are affected by problems we can’t even predict, and in a sense there is an almost contagious aspect,” Amundsen High School principal Anna Pavichevich told WTTW. News. “It’s so important that we’re taking steps now. This initiative, advocated by the CPS, came at the perfect time. “
The program “Please Stay” was developed in Born This Way Foundation and Find your anchor and seeks to better teach students in grades 7-12 about mental health by facilitating conversations with peers and connecting adolescents with any mental health resources they may need.
Michael Roy, head of the CPS Training and Prevention Group, said the county was trying to emphasize youth voices and leadership so students could hear from other teens about mental health issues and the challenges they face.
The CPS distributed materials to teachers, counselors, and school leaders to facilitate classroom conversations about self-care and help students find “anchors” – things like a favorite activity or food that they can use to strengthen themselves during times of stress.
Participating students are also asked to make a commitment in which they promise to seek support when and when they need it.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study which found that 44% of high school students in the U.S. reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
Pavichevich said he “breaks his soul” to see students dealing with these issues on a daily basis, but these issues also go beyond the classroom and have become a “community issue.”
“When we are dealing with so much sadness and so much depression and anxiety, I go home with sadness and anxiety,” she said. “Teachers go home with a sad and anxious feeling, so this is something that is now widespread in communities.”
As part of the new initiative, the CPS is also emphasizing that school leaders identify resources for students in their buildings so that they have people with whom they can talk every day.
Late last month, the CPS announced plans expand the pilot program with Lurie Children’s Hospital, which will set up a behavioral health group at each district school to better identify and reach out to students in need of mental health support.
Roy said the CPS is also piloting a program at some schools called First aid for adolescent mental healthit is a peer support program that helps high school students learn to understand and respond to signs of mental health or problems with substance use.
CPS schools will begin implementing the initiative in the final weeks of this school year.
“It’s just an incredibly important campaign right now,” Roy said. “We know there are young people who are dealing with depression and anxiety, and those problems have really increased during the pandemic.”
Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | [email protected] | (773) 509-5431