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Students Offering Support program looking out for mental health

Students Offering Support program looking out for mental health

LOCS Superintendent Marion Ginopolis will regularly share thoughts and updates about district-related topics in the Lake Orion Review.

Given the continued high rates of teens in crisis and suicide among adolescents and young adults, a number of years ago Lake Orion Community Schools initiated a promising and innovative program of student-to-student support at the high school: SOS, Students Offering Support. A key to addressing these issues is to get students involved in a unified effort to help each other.

The purpose of the SOS program is to break down barriers and stigmas surrounding mental health issues and youth suicide by providing ongoing peer-to-peer support, strategies and resources to all students related to maintaining mental health, reducing depression and other forms of unhealthy living. The goal is to have an ongoing student-to-student system of support in place to provide help to anyone in crisis.

The SOS team is trained by adult advisors on the team to recognize signs of mental health distress (e.g. depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and substance abuse) and then to effectively present this information to their peers. The SOS team goes from class-to-class multiple times, educating students at the high school and now at the middle schools about crisis warning signs and valuable information and resources about how and where to seek help.  (It is important to note that the SOS students’ roles are NOT to act as counselors or to evaluate whether a person is in crisis; rather their role is to present information and resources.)

One unique activity, entitled “GOto5” has resulted in every student identifying five personal resources/people they can go to if they need help or support.  The SOS team leads this activity and every student creates a small card with the names and contact information of their personal resources that they carry with them at all times. (See image below) It acts as a reminder that they have others in their life that love, care and are there for them if they need help, or just someone to talk to.

The Lake Orion SOS program has been recognized by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners with a proclamation to honor its dedication and commitment to making a difference. In addition to receiving numerous requests from other school districts to train their students in the program, the SOS team has conducted presentations on the program at the Oakland University Student Leadership Conference and Channel 4, “Click on Detroit” aired a special news broadcast about the SOS program.

We are very proud of our SOS students as it is clear that our students want to be part of the solution and, if they are not involved, the district is underutilizing a valuable resource.