peer-led Crisis care

November 2021 View more

Identification cards issued to Illinois junior high and high school students will look a little different next year thanks to a new law championed by a group of Naperville Central High School students. The Beyond Charity Law, which goes into effect July 1, requires state schools to now list suicide prevention and crisis line phone numbers on the back of every student’s identification card. The initiative is a part of the group’s effort to break the negative stigma of mental health.

It all began when NCHS senior Aparna Ramakrishnan wanted to create an easier way for teens to access information on how to cope with anxiety and depression. “I spent a lot of time on Google and researching different sites,” she recalls. “I just wished there was an easy-to-find list of skills or a group of people who would share what works for them.” Once Ramakrishnan found a group of teens willing to share their mental health stories, in May 2020 she launched Beyond Charity (

Since its inception the group has hosted Zoom presentations to over 50 schools and groups throughout the country.

“We personalize the presentations based on what the teacher or group wants,” Ramakrishnan explains. “Each presenter talks about their own mental health journey and what helped them. Because we are peer-led, we are able to create a unique connection and a sense of trust with our audience.”

Determined to make a bigger impact, members of Beyond Charity contacted local legislators after Ramakrishnan noticed crisis hotlines were listed on her sister’s Vanderbilt University college ID, but not on hers. Their efforts led to the passing of the aforementioned law in August.

That success has inspired them to continue lobbing for more legislation, especially surrounding mental health education in schools.

“Everyone deals with periods of stress, sadness, anxiety,” she says. “Learning coping strategies is so important.”

Photo courtesy Aparna Ramakrishnan