On Tuesday and Wednesday, I joined a team of counselors and social workers at a northwest suburban high school to help them implement the SOS program for the very first time. For 8 consecutive class periods, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., we taught all freshmen (close to 500 students) how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and depression, and, more importantly, how to help friends in need by seeking help from a trusted adult. School staff did a fantastic job of not only teaching the program, but also emphasizing its importance. For me, this was a new experience, as well; while I have had the opportunity to observe the program at many schools, this was the first time that I assisted with the teaching. It was wonderful to see how engaged students were both while watching the DVD, and participating in the group discussions. They took the topic very seriously and seemed moved by the real stories in the DVD, particularly Elyssa’s.

When I talked about Elyssa’s Mission, and how we got started, all eyes were on me and the room was silent—every single time. Students clearly were shaken with the prospect of losing a friend to suicide. They asked how old Elyssa was when she killed herself, and gasped when they discovered she was not much older than they are now. We talked about adults in their lives that they could go to if they had a friend like Elyssa; by a show of hands, virtually all indicated that they would go to one of these adults, and not keep their friend’s suicidal thoughts a secret. Today, at the close of “day two,” I feel exhausted yet exhilarated at the same time. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel at knowing that 500 more teens are armed with the tools they need to help save a life.

– Jodie Segal, Director of Education