NNHS freshmen undergo SOS mental health screening and education


On August 28th and September 4th, freshmen at Naperville North participated in mental health screening and education in their Wellness classes.

Naperville North staff worked with non-profit suicide prevention group Elyssa’s Mission, which uses the SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program (SOS). The program, funded by grants, was implemented at no price. Principal Stephanie Posey said that the program was part of a response to a rise in local and national teenage suicide rates.

“We’ve had our own personal tragedies in this building. We’ve been looking over the last couple of years, as a district, how we can better serve the social-emotional needs of our students,” Posey said.

Naperville North has experienced four unexpected student deaths since the start of 2017, several of which have been confirmed suicides, leading to an increase in conversation about mental health. For the last 12 months, the NNHS administration has worked on implementing the program.

Elyssa’s Mission was founded in 2006 in honor of Chicagoland teen Elyssa Meyers. Naperville North staff members were trained by Elyssa’s Mission to administer the SOS lesson and screening. NNHS currently plans to screen sophomores in October, juniors in February, and seniors near the end of the school year, Posey said. Additionally, Elyssa’s Mission will work with all District 203 schools for grades 6-12.

The lesson’s content builds upon general mental health information, featuring the do’s and don’ts of helping peers who have mentioned self harm or depression. This is done through in-class discussion, pre- and post-lesson testing on students’ mental health knowledge, and a video provided by Elyssa’s Mission. The screening itself, known as the Brief Screen for Adolescent Depression, is intended to gauge the general feelings of students, and Student Services staff members are present in the case that a student reports having symptoms or requires help. A central message of SOS is “ACT,” which stands for Acknowledging that you or a friend may be depressed or suicidal, responding with Care, and Telling a trusted adult.

John Fiore, the instructional coordinator for the Wellness Department, worked to help implement SOS for the department. He felt reassured by the program.

“As a teacher — and also as a parent — of District 203 kids, I couldn’t be more behind a project like this,” Fiore said.

Some students also expressed positivity about SOS. Freshman Evan Zimmerman found the lesson’s video to be useful.

“It definitely was a great experience just because it could show you situations that might actually happen to you or your friend, and I think that’s a great learning experience,” Zimmerman said.

Posey was also involved in committees and talks to organize a mental health program for the district and NNHS, saying that emotional health is vital to academic success. She considers the program a valuable tool to strengthen support within the student body.

“I worry all the time about kids who are listening to their friends…and a friend says, ‘listen I’m thinking about harming myself but please don’t tell anyone’…that is a tremendous burden that I don’t want my students ever to be saddled with,” Posey said.

Rachel Hale and Katie de Waard contributed to this report