A year ago Naperville Central senior Angela Adamo heard about the high school students who took their own lives in Naperville and the rising suicide rate among teens across the country.
“I was always reading about a suicide,” Adamo said. “Why hasn’t anyone done anything? Then I thought maybe I should do something.”
In DuPage County last year, the coroner’s figures show 82 deaths were the result of suicide and 10 of those people were teens and adolescents.
The 18-year-old’s vision was to organize an event that not only educates teens about where they can get help, but lets them know they’re not alone when it comes to overwhelming stress and anxiety. “In the world we’re living in, there’s a crazy rise in mental health issues,” Adamo said.
After nearly a year in the works, her dream will become reality April 14 through Walk4Life, a suicide prevention and mental health awareness event for both teens and the Naperville community.
“It’s basically a unity walk” and a show of support to say “you are not alone,” said Adamo, who graduated from Naperville Central in 2018.
Now a freshman at Illinois State University , Adamo said she’s learned many teens think they’re the only ones who are experiencing pressure and stress.
“I felt I was alone,” she said. “I had my own struggles with anxiety.
“Being a teenager, there’s this pressure to be perfect,” whether from peers or from social media, she said. “It can be unbearable.”
Adamo said she was fortunate to have a mother who is an expert and knows the strategies for coping with that pressure. “Most moms don’t have a degree,” she said.
“Teens need know there’s a safe place to go and share what’s bothering them,” she said.
While the Naperville community has a myriad of resources to help teens, Adamo said an “overwhelming number” don’t know what’s available.
The walk is aimed at getting teens that information in a fun and nonthreatening setting.
With her idea in mind, Adamo applied to the Alive Center’s Teen Initiate for assistance and funding.
Not only was her concept welcomed, 20 students joined Adamo to plan and promote Walk4Life.
“I am working with an amazing group of teens,” she said.
Jules Prokop, operations director at the Alive Center, said teens in this community are like the teens all over the country whose voices are being heard.
“It’s great for others to see what I get to experience everyday working with them. They are the most awakened and inspiring group to be around,” Prokop said. “They’re definitely doers, big thinkers and innovators.”
Removing the stigma surrounding mental illness is one step Adamo hopes to accomplish at her event, which is why she’s likens it more to a fun fair than a walk.
The walking portion of the Walk4Life starts at 3 p.m. and loops back to the Alive Center, 500 W. Fifth Ave. in Naperville.
Adamo said post-hike celebration will include speakers, games, food trucks and booths for local social service organizations offering information and pamphlets.
A must-have for Adamo was a bounce house. “There’s no better way for uniting teens than a bounce house,” she said.
Registration for the event is $20 and includes a T-shirt and entry. Tickets can be purchased at the Alive Center website, www.alivenaperville.com. Click on Walk4Life under “Get Involved” in drop-down menu.
The Alive Center offers subsidized registration for youth, seniors and those who are unable to afford it.
Proceeds from the Walk4Life benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Alive Center Teen Initiate Program.