On Monday and Tuesday of this week (March 19th and 20th), I had the opportunity to pilot the SOS program in an all-girls self defense class at a southwest suburban high school. This was the first time that I taught the program on my own within a school setting; normally I am either assisting school staff or observing them teach. Melissa Malnatti, a friend of Elyssa’s and Board member of Elyssa’s Mission, was able to co-teach with me on the first day, which was an eye-opening experience both for me, and for the students. Students listened in silence when they heard Melissa speak about her regrets over Elyssa, and how she wished she would have had a program like SOS when she was in school so that she would have known what to do, and would not have kept Elyssa’s suicidal thoughts a secret. Melissa made it impossible for students to forget the ACT (Acknowledge, Care, Tell) message when she told them how she would much rather have had Elyssa mad at her for telling an adult about her concerns than the alternative: having to attend her best friend’s funeral.

Throughout the two program days, student spoke openly about depression and suicide, asking questions and even sharing personal experiences. One girl, for example, bravely told about the time her close friend was imminently suicidal, and how she enabled her to get the help she needed by telling her friend’s mom. The girls learned a lot, particularly to ACT in order to save a friend’s life. The post-test results speak for themselves: 100% of students defined ACT correctly.

– Jodie Segal, Director of Education