Local teens get 'Mental Health First Aid' training thanks to Lady Gaga foundation

Nine-time Grammy winner Lady Gaga has challenged some suburban Chicago high school students to a very important task: to learn and then teach teen "Mental Health First Aid."

Stagg High School in Palos Hills is one of eight high schools that the pop star's "Born This Way" foundation chose to test out the course this week.

It's the first training of its kind developed for students in the U.S.

“Everybody has, sadly, a mental crisis eventually,” said sophomore Noah Enriquez.

It's a statement that rings particularly true in just about any high school you step into.

Between finals, friends, relationships and now more than ever, the pressures of social media, navigating the ups and downs of early adulthood can be a tough task.

“We see a lot of anxiety, we see a lot of depression, ADHD, so mental health, you name it, it's in every single school,” said social worker Paige Lombard.

“A lot of people they don't know how to healthily express themselves,” said sophomore Ethan Nutter.

But these are some of the faces of Stagg High School sophomores hoping to change that.

This week, they're being put through the paces of learning how to identify and respond to mental health or substance use problems among their peers.

“This is amazing. What we're learning here should stick with every student. It's information that will help you and all of us - seeking help when you need it and knowing when to talk to people and how to speak to them is very crucial,” Nutter said.

Teens trust their friends, which is why this program has the potential to be so successful, according to the prevention program coordinator for the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, Riley Blythe.

“In the training, they go through an action plan - it's look, ask, listen, help your friend,” Blythe said.

Teens, helping teens, through crisis. Hoping to take the stigma out of stress.

“The stigma needs to drop because there are people with these health problems, there are people that actually have these problems and they need the help as you would need help medically if your leg was broken or if your arm was broken, you'd seek medical attention,” Enriquez said.

“We really try and have students advocate for themselves, but we also have referrals from parents, teachers, or other staff members in the building,” Lombard said.

In the end, it doesn't matter who recognizes the need. The end goal is to make sure the help is there.

And at Stagg, it's as simple as circling yes or no on an exit ticket asking if they feel they need to talk to a counselor immediately.

“It's a more confidential way to be like this is how I'm feeling I need help or something like that,” said sophomore Persephone Valdes.