Elyssa’s Mission is a community-based organization whose mission is to help prevent teen suicide throughout the Chicago area. It was founded in 2006 in honor of Elyssa Meyers (pictured), a bright, gifted, and outgoing girl who died by suicide after bravely battling post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Upon conducting all the necessary research to start the organization, founders Joanne, Alan and Ken Meyers aimed for an effective program that could be easily implemented. When they came across our Signs of Suicide (SOS) program, they thought it had the necessary qualities and components, so they partnered with MindWise Innovations to implement it throughout the Chicago area.
“Fifteen years ago we didn’t know anything about mental illness – we weren’t talking about it,” says Joanne Meyers. “And in order to save lives and address these (silent) sufferers we have to talk about it.”
For most people, talking about mental and behavioral health is difficult. Moreover, when it comes to talking about suicide, there are countless myths and misconceptions about it. However, in order to prevent suicide, a conversation about it must take place and this cannot happen without a proper, validated process that is supported by behavioral health professionals.
“Nobody knew what to do or what to say when Elyssa was alive,” Joanne Meyers adds. “They didn’t know how to help. There was a lack of education.”
Given that the MindWise SOS program is evidence-based, backed by behavioral health professionals, and shown to reduce self-reported suicide attempts by 64%, Elyssa’s Mission decided to fully fund the MindWise SOS program in Illinois. According to Joanne Meyers, introducing the program into schools was slow at first, but two events helped make it happen. First, Elyssa’s Mission began to provide hands-on support, which made schools more comfortable. Second, Illinois passed a law requiring a suicide prevention policy in all schools, also known as Ann Marie’s Law. Word about Elyssa’s Mission and its services quickly spread, and the MindWise SOS program has since proven to yield palpable results.
Outcomes by the Numbers
Elyssa’s Mission measures success by testing students before and after going through the SOS program. The post-SOS test assesses whether students have learned the ACT message and what it stands for, and whether they understand how to spot the signs of depression and suicide. Their benchmark is 80% or better on true/false questions and 90% on identifying the ACT message.
These are the results for the 30 middle schools they tested in 2018-2019:
And these are the results for the 19 high schools they tested in 2018-2019:
“One of the most positive outcomes we noticed while implementing Signs of Suicide (SOS) were the amount of students stepping forward from the ACT message and the amount of students being identified by the screening process,” says Joanne Meyers. “It’s amazing to witness first-hand, time and time again, how this program works!”
Elyssa’s Mission is growing at a rapid pace, given that it provides a tremendous amount of hands-on support to schools. “We now have to figure out how to accommodate our schools in a more efficient and time-sensitive manner so that we can continue to respond to all the requests that are coming in,” says Joanne Meyers. “We are working on a new model that will hopefully allow us to keep up with the work flow.”
- Suicide prevention education and SOS implementation training
- Grant applications advice and support
- Communication strategies around mental health awareness and suicide prevention
- MindWise Screening program implementation for Elyssa’s Mission
"We see MindWise Innovations as the leading experts in suicide prevention education and screening in our youth. We value our ongoing collaboration and partnership with MindWise as we continue to expand SOS programming throughout Illinois."Joanne Meyers President of the Board of Directors, Elyssa's Mission