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‘COVID has only presented an additional challenge’ – Chicago Tribune

Chicago Public Schools on Tuesday announced the launch of a mental health and suicide prevention campaign that encourages students in seventh through 12th grade to take a pledge to stay alive and seek help if they need it.

CPS said staff members, including school counselors, will discuss the “Please Stay” campaign, self-care habits and mental health resources and screen a three-minute “Please Stay” video in classes. The district said it shared campaign materials — including a teacher/counselor’s guide, pledge cards and digital resources — with schools last week as May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

CPS said 38% of its students have reported feeling depressed and 17% have seriously considered suicide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.

“COVID has only presented an additional challenge,” Michael Roy, training and prevention team lead for the CPS Office of Student Protections and Title IX, says in the “Please Stay” video.

CPS said it is the first school district to implement the initiative, developed by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and Find Your Anchor, a movement aimed at suicide prevention and awareness.

Beyond this campaign, the district said it is expanding its behavioral health team model, developed and implemented with Lurie Children’s Hospital, from more than 200 schools to all of its 500-plus district-run schools for the coming school year. CPS said its goal is to have one of these teams, which are tasked with identifying students with behavioral health needs and connecting them with interventions, in every CPS school by the 2023-24 school year.

The Chicago Board of Education, meanwhile, in March adopted a mental health and suicide prevention policy the district says will reduce stigma and increase staff members’ ability to recognize students exhibiting or at risk of developing mental health issues.

CPS said its budget for the coming school year allows for 623 social workers and 117 counselors. The contract the district forged with the Chicago Teachers Union in 2019 calls for a social worker in every school by the 2023-24 school year.

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