Teen suicide, bullying, school violence, and other threats to school safety are a far too common part of today’s schools. Illinois has now launched a new school safety program called Safe2Help Illinois to address those issues. The program is aimed at getting students to seek help before harm. Central to the program is a free app, website, and text/phone number where students can report school safety issues confidentially. An educational curriculum to support the program’s goals is also under development.
In developing the program, Illinois looked at similar programs in other states, finding that the two most common tips were focused on threats of suicide and bullying. The state hopes to see significant improvement in these areas given that:
- 47,000 Illinois students reported attempting suicide in 2015
- Nearly 100 Illinois youth ages 10 to 19 died by suicide in 2015
- 2 in 10 Illinois students report being bullied
- Students who are bullied are twice as likely to attempt suicide
Illinois officials also hope that the program will show similar effectiveness to other states in preventing acts of school violence. In Nevada, a tip successfully thwarted a potential school attack on the first day of the program. Those hopes are based on Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics showing:
- In 85% of all mass shootings, someone knew something before the event took place, with signs ranging from social media postings to observed signs of distress.
- In almost every mass school shooting incident in the US in the last 15 years, after-action reports indicate that at least one other student knew something might happen and did not come forward for a variety of reasons.
Safe2Help Illinois is a 24/7 program where students can use a free app, text/phone, website, and other social media platforms to report school safety issues in a confidential environment. Once vetted, the tips will immediately be shared with local school officials, mental health professionals and/or local law enforcement, depending on the nature of the tip. The program also will help local officials by connecting them with mental health resources or other appropriate resources to intervene and help students before they harm themselves or others.
Safe2Help Illinois is also seen as a long-term initiative to change the school culture in Illinois. Starting with an educational curriculum as early as preschool, Illinois officials hope to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues, foster a culture of kindness, and instill important lessons such as the difference between telling and tattling, internet safety, and suicide prevention.
You can find more information at Safe2HelpIL.com, including resources to help your child deal with their own struggles with bullying, abuse, and suicide or supporting a friend facing those issues.