Indian Lake High School students are deploying Anchor Boxes in their school and community to help others keep their mental health afloat.
Members of the ILHS Students Against Destructive Decisions Club recently stuffed more than 100 boxes with information about local mental health resources, churches and support services to supplement the other materials in the ready-made packages.
Indian Lake School Nurse Kourtney Thompson recently met with members of the SADD Club to ask what they think is the most concerning current health topic. A majority of the teens requested more guidance on mental health.
ILHS SADD club secretary and senior Hailee Reser sees the Anchor Boxes as a way to offer help.
“I hope that we can make a difference in peoples’ lives and prove that there’s always somebody there who cares,” she said.
Aimed at suicide prevention and awareness, the purpose of the compact blue boxes with a white anchor symbol is to offer resources and inspiration to those thinking about, or impacted by suicide.
ILHS SADD advisor Deb Metzger said Anchor Boxes could be useful to anyone.
“A student could discreetly grab a box for herself or for a friend. We also encourage students who have used a box to put it back where they got it or pass it on, adding in their own tools or appropriate advice.”
Local mental health advocates Steve and Debbie Terrill worked with Superintendent Rob Underwood to bring the Anchor Boxes on board at Indian Lake Schools as part of a greater effort to support the mental health needs of local young people.
“Through my relationship with the National Council of Behavioral Health I learned of the ‘Anchor Box ‘ initiative. In collaboration with Superintendent Underwood, we determined this could be a valuable complementary program to Teen Mental Health First Aid training with students,” Mr. Terrill said.
“Additionally, I believe our youth need to know they are not alone, that others have had difficult times and the Anchor Box represents those who had similar experiences and want to offer support.”
With the Terrills’ help, every Indian Lake Local Schools staff member received Adult Mental Health First Aid training in 2018 and an online recertification this school year.
“The Indian Lake staff knows that educating children goes beyond academics and that we must foster those mental health and social-emotional skills that lead to a productive and fulfilling life,” Superintendent Underwood added.
Before Covid-19 forced the shut down of school’s last spring, Indian Lake High School students were being trained in Teen Mental Health First Aid as part of a limited nationwide pilot program through Johns Hopkins University.
Longtime ILHS teacher Doug Reprogle and Mr. Terrill are certified to cover the sensitive material and will present the program over the next few weeks with all junior students in the ILHS College and Career Readiness classes. After nearly 30 years of teaching high school, Reprogle knows this information critically important.
“The Teen Mental Health First Aid program gives students the basic skills necessary to address the mental health challenges they are likely to face during their lifetime,” he said. “It also teaches them how to speak openly and compassionately to their friends who might be struggling.”
Studies show one in five teens lives with a mental health condition. Half of all mental illnesses begin by age 14 and three-quarters by the mid-20s.
Each student will work in the Teen Mental Health First Aid book during the course and get to keep the manual covering anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, eating disorders, alcohol and drug disorders and psychotic disorders.
Hailee explained that several Anchor Boxes are now placed in classrooms, including Mr. Reprogle’s room, and other public areas around ILHS where students have quick and easy access to grab one and go. SADD members will also be placing the boxes in local libraries, restaurants, youth centers and other areas popular with young people.
Metzger said an ongoing ILHS SADD Club project will be to monitor all locations and replenish or refill the Anchor Boxes as needed.
To learn more about Anchor Boxes, visit Find Your Anchor. For information on the Teen Mental Health First Aid, visit MHFA.org/teens.