Volunteers gathered at Nicholas Senn High School on Monday to collect boxes filled with items aimed at improving student mental health.
The boxes contain lists of resources including suicide hotlines; a “you’re so in love” wristband; statistics about depression and suicide; a deck of cards with 52 reasons to live; and a handwritten message reminding the owner of the box that they are loved and not alone.
CPS students, teachers and administrators helped fill nearly 400 boxes, which were created by Find Your Anchor, a statewide suicide prevention organization founded in Chicago.
Ali Borowsky created Find Your Anchor to spread awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.
“I have personally suffered and throughout my mental health journey, I felt that mental health care often felt corporate, sterile and clinical,” Borowsky said.
Find Your Anchor partners with CPS to collect and distribute boxes to middle school students throughout the district. The group will provide the district with 1,000 boxes to distribute during the school year, including the 400 boxes collected Monday.
Since Borowsky made the first box in 2012, her organization has distributed 40,000 boxes to schools and groups across the U.S.
“These boxes are a way to remind someone that they are not alone and to give them information on how to find help,” she said. “If we’ve saved one life, that’s worth all 40,000 boxes.”
Jaylin Yanez, an 18-year-old Pathways in Education student, helped assemble the boxes. They also spent time writing messages to add to the box.
“It’s okay that you can still do it under these conditions. You are so strong and loving. Take it one day at a time,” Yanez wrote in a note.
“These boxes are helpful for someone who has no one to talk to and doesn’t know where to turn for help,” said Yanez, who plans to work in mental health.
Mental health care needs to be more available and accessible, especially for young people, Yanez said.
“Mental health affects everyone differently. Everyone has their own struggles. And they need to know that asking for help doesn’t mean they’re weak,” she said.
During a discussion after the box assembly, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said mental health care will continue to be a priority for the district.
“I want our students to see our schools as a place where they feel they can talk to someone,” Martinez said. “I want them to know that if they’re struggling with something, they can talk to someone and know they’re not alone.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by calling 1-800-273-TALK and the Crisis Text Line can be reached by texting HOME to 741-741.