Lizzy Croghan, Elyssa’s Mission blogger

Every year in August, Elyssa’s Mission has an annual event called “A Race to Save Young Lives,” held at Arlington Racecourse. People gather to generously donate to suicide prevention and the SOS Signs of SuicideÒ Prevention Program for middle and high school students. This year was special for me because it was my first time filming the program with my iPhone. I was able to capture everyone’s speeches through film and, in my opinion, the speeches were the best they’ve ever been. The main takeaway message from this year’s event was that the SOS program saves teens’ lives. SOS, however, costs money. The beauty of Elyssa’s Mission is that they fully fund this program in schools throughout Illinois.

One of the speakers, Ed Hood, Principal at Gurrie Middle School, stated that he initially had concerns about bringing suicide prevention programs to his school because he did not want to put the idea of suicide in his students’ heads. Then he realized that teens need to be made aware of the signs of suicide in themselves and their friends.  Ed emphasized how Elyssa’s Mission brought SOS into his school and that the process of educating staff, parents and students worked extremely well. Ed arranged a parent education night to educate families about suicide and depression. The school even provided transportation for parents to attend the session. It was a huge success. Katie Baker (EM staff) presented this parent training on suicide.  Through the parent training and the student SOS program, parents and their teens were able to begin a conversation.  Ed showcased how one family truly benefitted from the SOS program because it opened up a dialogue between the mother and daughter. The mother learned her daughter had attempted suicide, and was subsequently able to get her daughter the proper help that she needed.

Katie Krall, the 2015 Elyssa’s Mission scholarship award recipient, spoke about how she put the ACT (Acknowledge, Care and Tell) technique into use and thereby made a difference in her friend’s life. She spoke about a close friend whom was suffering from depression and exhibiting signs of suicide. Katie was able to notify her friend’s parents and get her friend help. One of the things that stood out for me in Katie’s speech was her praise for Elyssa’s Mission: “I’ve never seen a cause so passionate about saving young teens’ lives.”

Melissa Molitor’s speech was extremely moving. Twelve years ago we weren’t talking about suicide. We didn’t know anything about depression. She spoke about her regret on not doing more in order to help Elyssa. She assumed Elyssa’s parents and therapist knew she was talking about suicide. Looking back, Melissa wishes she been educated on the help-seeking message ACT to be able to help Elyssa when was hurting. She would rather have Elyssa still be mad at her today then have kept Elyssa’s secret to herself.

Lastly, Joanne Meyers, president of Elyssa’s Mission closed the program by stating, “Depression is like cancer it kills. And like any illness we need to know what to do. We need to be educated on depression and suicide so that we can all save lives.” I completely agree with her. Elyssa’s Mission has saved many teens’ lives. It can’t be a topic swept under the rug.

What makes me passionate about Elyssa’s Mission is that they have taken a heavy topic and turned it into a conversation, an important one. This is the only way we can identify those suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts. By bringing suicide prevention programming to schools and their communities, Elyssa’s Mission continues to make a huge impact. I am extremely grateful for Elyssa’s Mission. What I learned is that depression isn’t something that can be swept under the rug. We have to talk about it! That’s the only way to, potentially, save a life.