CPS Announces Launch of Please Stay Campaign During Mental Health Awareness Month
10 May 2022
Initiative for 7th-12 Grade Students Focused on Suicide Prevention and Mental Health, Part of Growing Resources to Support Well Being, including Expanded Behavioral Health Training + Counselors for Fall 2023
Chicago Public Schools today announced the inaugural launch of the Please Stay mental health and suicide prevention campaign aimed at seventh through twelfth grade students. CPS is the first school district to implement the initiative, developed by Born This Way Foundation and Find Your Anchor in response to increased rates of depression, suicide, and anxiety disorders among young people.
“This campaign reminds students of the importance of prioritizing their mental health and of the many supports that are available to them,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “I am so proud of all our students who take this pledge and who reach out for support if needed.”
Campaign materials, including a teacher/counselor’s guide, pledge cards, and digital resources were shared with schools last week, coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Month, to help school staff connect with students and elevate the importance of getting help if needed. The new campaign is part of growing mental health services and supports available across CPS, including ongoing work to support LGBTQ+ students with policies, procedures, and resources that create safe and inclusive learning environments.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health of children and adolescents was already a concern but data released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the crisis has grown amid the past couple of years. The data shows approximately one in three high school students experienced poor mental health (most of the time or always) during the COVID-19 pandemic (37.1%) and during the past 30 days (31.1%) and 44 percent reported persistently feeling sad or hopeless in the past year.
Rooted in lived experience and supported by evidence-based resources, Please Stay is an interactive and accessible initiative aimed at educating students about mental health. As part of the campaign, developed in 2020, individuals are asked to take the Please Stay Pledge, in which they agree to stay alive, and reach out for support if needed.
Staff members, including school counselors, will be talking about the campaign in classes over the next few weeks, referencing self care habits and mental health resources, and showing students this CPS Please Stay video. The campaign addresses the comprehensive mental well-being of students’ emotional, psychological, and social health and provides tips and resources to help them cope when stressed.
“Young people are facing very real mental health challenges and we need to meet them with kind, compassionate messages, and helpful resources,” said Maya Smith, Born This Way Foundation’s Executive Director. “We are grateful for partners like Chicago Public Schools for working to eliminate the stigma that surrounds mental health and validate the emotions of young people. Most importantly, we want to remind young people everywhere that it's ok to not be ok. You matter, you are not alone, the world needs you, and there are resources and support available for you.”
Some of the Please Stay tips for students include:
Practice Self-Care so they can maintain healthy relationships with themselves and others. Suggestions: Enjoying a movie, listening to music, unplugging for the day, journaling, spending time outdoors, meditating and reaching out to others when help is needed.
Find Anchors to steady themselves in times of stress. Suggestions: Game nights, playing basketball, enjoying favorite foods and treats, spending time with friends and family.
Undertake Soul-Filling Activities that make them happy. Suggestions: Cheering someone on, making someone laugh, gardening, using less plastic, reaching out to a friend.
Additional Mental Health Resources & Staff
The initiative is one of several Districtwide new or expanding measures to address and support mental health and well-being both inside and outside the classroom. The District’s comprehensive Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Policy , adopted in March 2022, establishes criteria schools must follow to create safe and supportive environments in which students feel comfortable talking about mental health, are aware of their schools’ resources to support mental health, and know who to talk to if they or a peer need help. This includes engaging students and parents/caregivers in mental health education and awareness, focusing on equitable learning environments and social emotional climate, ensuring protections for LGBTQ+ students, (see CPS Guidelines Regarding the Support of Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Individuals) and training requirements for all staff.
Next year’s CPS budget allocates funding for 623 social workers and 117 counselors, up by 60 and 53, respectively, from this year. The District will also continue to increase its nursing staff as well as professionals who support students in temporary living situations.
Comprehensive Behavioral Health Team Model
In addition to the Please Stay campaign, the District recently announced it is expanding its successful school-based Behavioral Health Team (BHT) model, developed and implemented with Lurie Children’s Hospital. The model aims to maximize resources and collaboration, provide early identification of students with behavioral health needs, and connect students to evidence-based interventions. Already piloted in more than 200 CPS schools, the District will begin expanding these teams to all 515 of its network schools next August with the goal of reaching all schools by School Year 2023-24.
“This is a critical time of year - as both staff and students sprint to complete end-of-year projects and productions as well as take part in field trips and school celebrations. This campaign reminds us to take a moment and remember to breathe and take care of ourselves and each other,” said LaSalle Elementary Language Academy Principal Chris Graves. “It is also an important opportunity to share vital support and resources with students before we leave for summer break.”
Born This Way Foundation, co-founded and led by Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, supports the mental health of young people and works with them to build a kinder and braver world. Through high-impact programming, youth-led conversations, and strategic, cross-sectoral partnerships, the Foundation aims to make kindness cool, validate the emotions of young people, and eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health. Learn how the Foundation encourages people to practice kindness towards themselves and their communities at bornthisway.foundation and its storytelling platform Channel Kindness at channelkindness.org.
Find Your Anchor is a grassroots movement aimed at suicide prevention, awareness, and education.
FYA aims to destigmatize suicide and mental health by inspiring hope and supporting people who may be struggling in a creative and tangible way.