Stagg High School Students Receive Mental Health First-Aid Training

Bernie Tafoya
April 24, 2019 - 9:00 am
Stagg High School Students Receive Mental Health Training

WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Stagg High School in Palos Hills is one of only eight schools in the country believed to be training a sizable number of its students in mental health first aid. 

About 600 sophomores at Stagg are receiving the mental health first-aid training this week in five, 45-minute sessions. The program deals with everything from teens knowing more about the signs of anxiety and depression, to suicidal thoughts and how to get help for themselves and others.  

"Now I see these warning signs, how to help people, how to talk to them is what we’re going to get into soon, how to just communicate with people who are showing these signs," said student, Ethan Nutter.

Beth Gulden is a counselor at Stagg.

"I’ve had a lot of kids that I’ve talked to afterwards come down with the…'you know this made me think about my friend and what can I do, how can I support,' so they’re really taking it to the level that they should be," she said.

Now Gulden would like to see this kind of program available to more students, as would Shannon Mongan, a social worker at the high school in Palos Hills.

"I am over-the-moon excited about this program. It is so important," she said. “Teens really struggle and I’m glad that we’re acknowledging that mental health is a serious concern and students are given tools in ways to identify and help support each other.”

Stagg High School
WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya

The training is being conducted by Riley Blythe of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health. Blythe said one of the areas students learn more about are warning signs of someone who may be struggling mentally.

"Removing themselves from any situation that they used to be part of, whether that be going to school, going to work, hanging out with friends, so just a difference in their daily activity when it’s lasting a long period of time," she said.

Blythe said she hopes that, by teaching the students about mental health when they're young, the stigma that hangs over the topic will decrease.

Stagg High School Students Receive Mental Health Training
WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya

Sophomore Persephony Valdes thinks the program is valuable.

"Most people don’t really feel safe talking about this kind of stuff so, it kind of opens it up for people to feel more comfortable," she said.

Valdes said the program offers ways to be more understanding of people who are struggling mentally "and be able to actually help them" instead of shying away from it.

Stagg High School was one of eight schools selected by the National Council for Behavioral Health and Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation in piloting the training program.