Return to Headlines

Mental Health Awareness for Middle Schoolers

RBMS Mental Health

In September and October, District 47 middle school students learn about depression and suicide. Sixth graders learn about depression awareness through a program called Erika’s Lighthouse. Seventh and eighth graders learn about depression and suicide awareness through a program called SOS Signs of Suicide® prevention (supported through Elyssa’s Mission). 

On the day of SOS program delivery, seventh and eighth graders watch a video about depression and suicide and participate in a facilitated discussion. They then complete a brief depression screener and fill out a response card asking if they wish to speak with a mental health professional about a concern for themselves or others. Clinicians (school psychologists, counselors and social workers) from across the district and mental health counselors from community agencies (Center for Emotional Wellness, Next Level Counseling and Wellness, Center for Emotional Wellness, Samaritan Counseling, Lakeview Counseling, Stableway Counseling and Nurturing Village) provide on-site, same day counseling support for students upon request. On the days of program delivery at each middle school, each middle school’s church partner (St. Thomas Church, Evangelical Free Church of Crystal Lake, and Willow Creek Crystal Lake) provides lunch for all mental health professionals at the school. In addition, Starbucks (downtown Crystal Lake) donated coffee.  

“This is some of the most important work we can do as a district,” said Kristin Schmidt, assistant director of special education. Schmidt oversees the district’s social work team and meets regularly with various local mental health agencies, including the McHenry County Mental Health Board, a school professionals clinical networking group, NAMI McHenry County and the Youth Empowerment Consortium. “Although schools have historically been educational institutions that focus on academics, we have learned as a collective that when students' mental health needs aren’t met, they can’t learn.”  

Schmidt reports that, on average, there have been 40-50 student follow-ups per grade level after conducting the SOS program and screener. “We are fortunate to have so many community partners that help us provide the necessary follow-up and support for students while we conduct this program. Not only does this allow us to function more efficiently, but it also sends the message that the community as a whole values the mental wellness of our students.”