Oak Park Elementary School District 97, River Forest District 90 and Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 are pleased to introduce a new mental health resource for our middle and high school students called "support4U,” which launched May 1.
What is support4U? It is a mental health-related prevention and support resource for students, by which they can text licensed mental health clinicians any time of the day for assistance or guidance. While students can initiate a text conversation on any issue, some of the matters that students wish to address could include anxiety, depression, substance use, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, bullying, abuse, or any other mental health-related topic. The resource is anonymous, so that student concerns about their identity are not a barrier to reaching out for help. The clinician’s goal during the text conversation is to steer the student to available resources in the school and community. In cases with an identified extreme threat of danger, clinicians have the ability to alert local authorities. However, the vast majority of interactions result in the student garnering immediate support from the clinician and being informed about local individuals (frequently school-based) who can assist them with their concern.
The resource was established by LEAD, a not-for-profit agency in Lake County, and is referred to as “Text-A-Tip” in other communities. The resource is present throughout northern Illinois and in several other states and is highly regarded in these communities as a valuable mental health asset for young people. District 97, District 90, and District 200 administrators and social workers have been trained on the workings of the system, and have been identified as key contacts in case of emergency. Similarly, the Oak Park and River Forest Police Departments are aware of the resource’s capabilities and are continuing their long history as strong supporters of mental health resources for community youth.
While the program will be rolled out with greater fanfare before the start of the 2018-19 school year, there is considerable value for it to be launched before summer. This will ensure that students will have supports available to them when they do not have ready access to school social workers and staff over the summer months. We will be sharing initial information about support4U with students in early May.
Please note that the Oak Park and River Forest Townships, the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, NAMI and the Oak Park-River Forest Rotary Club are generously underwriting the cost of this resource in the coming year. We are very grateful for their sponsorship and dedication to the well-being of the students in our community. We are also thankful to parents and staff for their support of this initiative, which we anticipate being an effective measure in continuing to elevate the positive mental health of the youth in our midst.
Dr. Carol Kelley