Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Hope Squad?
The Hope Squad program is a school-based peer support team that partners with local mental health agencies. Peers select students who are trustworthy and caring individuals to join the Hope Squad. Squad members are trained to watch for at-risk students, provide friendship, identify suicide-warning signs, and seek help from adults.
HOPE Squad members are NOT taught to act as counselors, but are educated on recognizing suicide warning signs and how to properly and respectfully report concerns to an adult. Once invited to be a HOPE Squad member, students must get a permission form signed by their parents and go through training.
The goal and objectives of the HOPE Squad Program are:
Hope Squads seek to reduce self-destructive behavior and youth suicide by training, building, and creating change in schools and communities.
- Hope Squads will train students and staff in schools to recognize suicide-warning signs and act upon those warnings to break the code of silence.
- Hope Squads will train students and staff to identify adolescents with undetected, untreated, or emerging mental disorders.
- Hope Squads will build positive relationships among peers and faculty in schools to facilitate acceptance for students seeking help.
- Hope Squads will build strong relationships with local mental health agencies and communities while educating students, parents, and school staff about available community mental health resources.
- Hope Squads will work to change the school culture regarding suicide by reducing stigmas about suicide and mental health.
- Hope Squads will work to change community perceptions of mental health by creating awareness about suicide and the tools available to prevent suicide
How much time does it take?
Advisors spend about 30-50 minutes each month working to provide training for Hope Squad members. Schools may choose to train Hope Squad members before school begins by providing an all-day training. The Hope Squad package provides a flexible training manual with curriculum lessons (PHASEs) and activities designed to meet the needs of the advisors, school, and students.
How are advisors recruited?
Schools usually ask school counselors to serve as the Hope Squad advisor due to their easy access within the school setting. Additional support or advisors can come from school psychologists, social workers, teachers, parents, members from the local mental health agency, or other school personnel such as lunch workers or custodians. Some Hope Squads have two or three advisors while others have chosen to have one advisor per grade level within the Squad.
How does it work?
Nominations – Peers select Hope Squad members through a nomination process, selecting peers they would feel comfortable talking to if they were struggling. Hope Squad advisors and school administrators review nominations and invite potential Squad members to participate. Parents are required to sign a permission form for students to participate in the program. For an average size high school, 20 to 30 students may serve on the Hope Squad. However, the number of members may vary according to the needs of the school.
Student Training – Students meet monthly with advisors for training. Some schools have found that pre-training, before school year begins, is helpful. The program allows flexibility for training according to the needs of the school.
Curriculum – Hope Squads are required to follow the developed curriculum manual, which contains monthly lesson plans (PHASEs) and activities. The curriculum focuses on training squad members in suicide prevention, intervention, and anti-bullying.
Mental Health Partnerships – Hope Squad advisors are encouraged to partner with a local mental health agency. Mental health specialists are encouraged to visit with Hope Squad members about mental illness and resources in the community.
Staff Involvement – Hope Squad members identify teachers and staff members who they would feel comfortable seeking assistance from either for themselves or struggling peers. Once identified, (usually 10-12 teachers or staff), individuals are trained on how to assist students by the Hope Squad members.
Student Referrals – Hope Squad members are trained to notice, reach out, and assist fellow students who may struggle with depression and/or other suicide concerns. Hope Squad members are trained to be a friend, not a therapist. Once a fellow student is identified to be “at-risk”, Hope Squad members encourage peers to visit with a trusted adult and receive additional help. Hope Squad members are trained to involve an adult anytime he or she is concerned about a peer.
Hope Squad consultants, who are current and past advisors in junior and high schools, are available by email or phone to answer questions or concerns. Current school administrators, who have a Hope Squad Program in their school, are available to answer questions or concerns for fellow administrators.
Are Hope Squads successful?
The dedication and leadership of the advisors and the relationship with the local mental health agency is crucial to the success of a Hope Squad Program. Our research has shown that Hope Squads are very successful in reaching out to fellow students who may be struggling by breaking the code of silence and referring these students to an adult.
The Hope Squad has changed the culture of our school to one where everyone looks out for one another and lets adults know when they see or hear something that concerns them.
Springville Junior High
At this point, I think it is the most effective program available to us, the school and students are so used to it by now it’s almost a legacy. Students count on it–they would be more upset if we changed programs.
Dixon Middle School
Kids this age are marvelous at listening to their friends but they get overwhelmed and don’t know how to carry it after a while. So if you have a program that addresses what to do and how to get help sooner perhaps break cycles sooner. I think peers are very relevant.
Hillside Middle School