Hope Squad Story
In 1998, high school principal, Greg Hudnall was asked to identify the body of a 14 year old that had taken his life in the public park next to his high school. After that experience he made a commitment to do everything he could to help prevent suicide in his school district of 14,000 students. Provo City School District was averaging 1-2 suicides a year including the death of a fourth grader on campus. Collaborating with community partners Dr. Hudnall (now at the district office) established the Circles4Hope community suicide prevention model. While the community model helped to reduce the number of suicides, it wasn’t until the school based peer leadership program Hope Squad was implemented that suicides were reduced from one to two a year to over nine years without a suicide. Hope Squads are student groups trained to identify suicide-warning signs in their peers, and alert adults to those signs.
Provo City School District Statistics
Delta High School Hope Squad
What Are Hope Squads?
Hope Squads are the eyes and ears of a school. They are comprised of students who are trained to watch for at-risk students–provide friendship, identify warning signs, and seek help from adults. Hope Squad advisors train students who have been identified by their classmates as trustworthy peers to serve as Hope Squad members. Through evidence-based training modules, Hope Squad members are empowered to seek help and save a life. Hope Squad members are NOT taught to act as counselors, but rather, are educated on how to recognize signs of suicide contemplation, and how to properly and respectfully report this to an adult.
Goals & Objectives
Hope Squads seek to reduce self-destructive behavior and youth suicide by training, building, and creating change in schools and communities.
1. 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.
2. Hope Squads will train students and staff to identify adolescents with undetected, untreated, or emerging mental disorders.
3. Hope Squads will build positive relationships among peers and faculty in schools to facilitate acceptance for students seeking help.
4. 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.
5. Hope Squads will work to change the school culture regarding suicide by reducing stigmas about suicide and mental health.
6. Hope Squads will work to change community perceptions of mental health by creating awareness about suicide and the tools available to prevent suicide.
Understanding Peer-to-Peer Training
Peer-to-peer training is an integral component of many youth suicide-prevention programs. It trains the students to recognize warning signs in depressed or suicidal peers, and report those signs to an adult. Peers are considered to be the most effective receptors of warning signs because they spend so much time together and are able to recognize when someone is acting differently. Evidence-based research shows that seven out of ten adolescents experiencing depressive or suicidal thoughts will confide in a friend or trusted peer before approaching an adult. The challenge is that very rarely will the friend/trusted peer speak to their peers, and then refer their peers to an adult who can get their peer professional help, thus taking the responsibility off the adolescent.
Evidence-based research reveals that adolescents experiencing depressive or suicidal thoughts will often confide in a friend rather than an adult. Rarely will the friend seek assistance from an adult. The Hope Squad Program trains adolescents to always seek assistance from an adult when they or a peer are struggling with suicide concerns.
Join the Hope Squad Movement
The Hope Squad Program contains curriculum based around a three-year integration program. The first year, Hope Squad Fundamentals, advisors are selected, administrators give approval, parents are involved and students are nominated and trained. The second year, Hope Squad Essentials, Hope Squad members increase their understanding about mental illness and gain confidence supporting and recognizing needs in their peers. The third year, Hope Squad Connections, many Hope Squad members have the skills to train new members. During the third year, experienced Hope Squad members are encouraged to provide training for their families and communities.
What does it take to become a successful Hope Squad?
- Supportive administration
- Committed advisors
- Encouraging parents
- Dedicated hope squad members
- Advisor becoming a certified QPR trainer
- Following the QPR and Hope Squad curriculum
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