Archives for category: Education & Prevention

To our annual fundraiser supporters,

With our annual fundraising event—Race to Save Young Lives at Arlington International Racecourse—behind us, I want to on reflect what the event and our supporters mean to me personally.

Looking at the bigger picture, several factors made the event more successful than ever.  Starting the planning early was helpful, but I attribute the success to hard work that included many hours of planning and soliciting, and your overwhelming support. Together, my team and I worked harder than ever on our outreach, and it all paid off as you came through for us.

As if the contributions of our sponsors and donors weren’t enough, we had the biggest turnout ever! I felt so grateful, and so blessed. We welcomed both new and returning guests at Arlington. Our closest friends and new partners filled the room. We invited school representatives and family members to help us highlight the vital and necessary SOS Signs of Suicide® Prevention Program.

As I addressed our friends at Arlington, I was overwhelmed not only with gratitude, but also with hope. Public speaking makes me nervous, but I know how important our message is and that motivates me to speak loud and clear: help us fund 30 new schools with suIMG_0319icide prevention education in the 2015-16 school year.

I’m happy to report our goal was met.

With the generous outpouring of contributions from our annual event Race to Save Young Lives, we just might reach 100 schools and educate more than 100,000 students by the school year’s end.

So I want to take this opportunity to extend a most heartfelt THANK YOU to our sponsors and silent auction donors for understanding the importance of our work and for your partnership. We could not do our work without you.

We thank the following corporate sponsors as follows…

Event Sponsors:joannesmom

  • Hospira
  • JMG Wealth Management
  • Mt. Prospect Volkswagen — Countryside Volkswagen/Subaru
  • The Warranty Group
  • Carol and Chris Garavente
  • Colon McLean and Matthew Holt
  • Nancia and Larry Weiner
  • Deede and Ed Wittenstein

Partner Sponsors: Daniel Callistein, LCSW (individual and family psychotherapy), Gendell Family Foundation, Beth and Jeff Izenman, John D. Jawor, Cynthia and David Rosenbloom, Susan and Howard Schoenfeld, Jackie and Bill Shiner

A list of all our silent auction donors is shown below.

I thank you again for your commitment to suicide prevention, and for your generosity. We look forward to partnering with you again.


Joanne Meyers
Elyssa’s Mission

TY_auction donors


ECroghanToday we introduce Lizzy’s Perspective, a feature blog from our newest blogger Lizzy Croghan. By sharing her her honest, earnest observations and her own personal battles with depression, Lizzy seeks to enlighten, educate, support and uplift young people struggling with depression and other mental or behavioral illnesses. Elyssa’s Mission is excited to welcome Lizzy and her unique perspectives.

Hello. My name is Elizabeth Croghan. I am a graduated communications student from Marquette University and I battle depression. I will always battle depression; it is something I am coping with and working through. It has been a tough ride but it has made me a better person.

I always wonder why I have depression. I have never had a particular reason to be depressed, for I come from a stable home and loving family and have never experienced anything extremely traumatic. I’m relatively attractive and in good physical shape. I have just always felt this foreboding sense of not being good enough. Perhaps it is because I have lived a life where I don’t appreciate anything I own. But I find depression just correlates with my personality; I’m really empathetic and easily sad when others are suffering. I either feel too sorry for myself or other people and often can’t find the balance in between. Another reason I may have depression is because I am artistic and tend to be on the more emotional side. I battle perfectionism, mood swings and high anxiety. I have ADHD and my mind tends to race. I take Adderall for ADHD and Lexapro, an antidepressant. They have helped me enormously. What I also do (which is unhealthy) is measure myself against other people. This can lead to insecurities as well.

The hardest thing I ever went through was my transition from high school to Lake Forest College. Going to an all-girls high school didn’t prepare me for the social challenges I had ahead. I was unable to make friends at Lake Forest College. I was not bullied at Lake Forest College but I felt completely isolated and excluded. I developed a cutting habit. I used to cry in my dorm and just cut myself. It was the worst. I didn’t know how to let people know how lonely I was without coming across as desperate. A particular girl would not allow me into her group of friends because she thought she was cooler than me. From Lake Forest College, I eventually transferred to Marquette University and to a group of friends who I had known from back home. I eventually “got the hang of” socializing with others again at Marquette and once I did, I never had trouble with it again. Lake Forest was an intimidating environment for me and was hard on my self-esteem, but it did teach me how to grow a thicker skin. It taught me to appreciate people more as well. I used to hate people for not having depression like me. I felt they weren’t as sensitive as me and wouldn’t understand me.

Cutting and self-harm are addictive behaviors. They are psychologically linked with not wanting to live anymore. I psychologically didn’t want to live but I never attempted suicide. There are different levels of depression and I’m unsure what my level of depression is. I used to like the fact that when I would cut myself, I was still able to be productive. There was no hangover from cutting. It was psychological self-punishment and it felt good. I have gotten help for it from a psychiatrist and I no longer cut. I’ve learned other, much more productive coping mechanisms.

The main root of my depression is perfectionism and not feeling good enough. I felt scared and vulnerable. I always felt like others might hurt me. I felt emotionally fragile, sensitive and afraid of rejection. I felt worried about not having entire control. I felt too competitive with other people. Basically as an emotional person, I felt things in extremes. What I would advise to a person in my same position who battles with depression is to get help. Speak up about it. Find an activity (like running every day). Study hard in school. Talk to your parents about how you are feeling; they should be there for you. Making long lasting friendships, painting and singing are also great ways of dealing with depression. And lastly, I would recommend reaching out and sharing your own personal story.

I hope by sharing this story I can reach out to people who feel like me.

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending Baker College Prep to witness and experience firsthand the roll-out of the SOS Signs of Suicide® program to the freshman class. I was impressed not only with the professional staff, but also with the attentive, respectful students, particularly their honest responses and willingness to promote discussion and ask questions regarding such a serious subject matter: suicide prevention and saving young lives. This experience really altered my perspective on today’s teens; I was astonished by their abundant knowledge, social awareness and capacity to accept a challenge.

This was an important event for Elyssa’s Mission because it was their first opportunity to partner with and bring the SOS program into a ChicagoSchool.  The program was funded by a local Chicago not-for-profit, Rebecca’s Dream (visit their website at to learn more) and implemented with the hands-on support of Elyssa’s Mission. The classes were co-taught by EM Director of Education, Jodie Segal, along with Hector Rodriguez, Health Teacher and Blessing Uchendu, Social Worker from Baker. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Chicago leads the nation in teen suicide attempts, with 15.8% of Chicagoland teens reporting that they’d attempted suicide one or more times in the past year.  It is up to us—parents, school staff and community members—to help identify the warning signs before it is too late.

Here are some signs that the teens in your life might be at risk for depression or suicide:

  • Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying
  • Hopelessness
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Marked personality change
  • Change in eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Frequent absences from school and/or poor school performance

The following signs of suicide demand IMMEDIATE ATTENTION: 

  • Talking or writing about suicide or death
  • Giving direct or indirect verbal cues that life is meaningfulness (e.g., “I wish I were dead;” “What’s the point of living?”)
  • Neglecting appearance and hygiene
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Obtaining a weapon or other means of hurting self
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Exhibiting a sudden and unexplained improvement in mood after being depressed or withdrawn
  • Dropping out of school or social, athletic or other activities

If you observe any of these signs, do not leave the teen alone.  Immediately call 911 or seek professional assistance.

To learn more, please visit our website at

Whether teens express thoughts of suicide in a text message, a conversation after school, or Facebook chat, they often confide in their peers. When a friend opens up and shares such powerful feelings, it can be tempting to keep their secret. No one wants to betray the confidence of a friend, especially one in such a vulnerable place–but it is imperative that teenagers understand the life or death importance of reaching out for help when a friend shares suicidal thoughts.

Breaking the silence and encouraging teens to seek help from parents and professionals are two cornerstones of Elyssa’s Mission’s work in the field of suicide prevention and education. Elyssa’s Mission trains secondary school staff to deliver the SOS Signs of Suicide® Program, an evidence-based program shown to reduce self-reported suicide attempts by 40% (BMC Public Health 2007). The SOS program combines an educational, discussion-based component with screening to identify teens who are depressed and help them get treatment, subsequently preventing suicide.

Adolescence is an especially vulnerable time.  It can truly take a village to provide support for teens struggling with thoughts of suicide and depression. Through the SOS program, teenagers learn that they are not alone. Elyssa’s Mission provides the resources to support at risk teens and prevent suicide, ultimately, Creating a Safer Today for our Youth®.

To learn more about the SOS Signs of Suicide program, please visit our website at

Jodie and I had an opportunity to partner with Linden Oaks Hospital at a recent conference they had on suicide prevention called “SOS: Depression & Suicide Among Adolescents.”  The conference began with a powerful youtube video of Amanda Todd, the Canadian teen who took her life just one month after posting the video.  Unfortunately, this real portrait of a young girl who was bullied by her peers is another example of a young life lost to suicide.  The conference was attended by professionals from local schools, law enforcement and mental health agencies, as well as concerned parents.  The three-hour conference was filled with important information on risk factors, protective factors and warning signs; suicide risk assessment and treatment were further discussed.  Linden Oaks staff explained the SOS program.  I then talked about Elyssa, and how her life story resembled that of Amanda Todd.  Jodie concluded the presentation by providing an inside view as to how we help schools implement the SOS program. Jodie and I both greatly appreciated the opportunity to partner with Linden Oaks on such an important issue.

–By Joanne Meyers, President

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