Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
1. Hope Squads will build positive relationships among peers and faculty in schools to facilitate acceptance for students seeking help.
2. 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.
1. Hope Squads will work to change the school culture regarding suicide by reducing stigmas about suicide and mental health.
2. Hope Squads will work to change community perceptions of mental health by creating awareness about suicide and the tools available to prevent suicide.
The Hope Squad program is primarily for elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and higher education. There are also programs for higher education, Veterans Affairs facilities, and businesses. Contact us to discuss implementing a Hope Squad in your organization or institution.
Many students are already talking about heavy topics, such as depression and suicide. Without training, students may keep a peer’s suicidal thoughts secret and try to help the peer by themselves. This causes undue burden and can do more harm than good. If a Hope Squad member learns someone is having suicidal thoughts, he or she knows how to respond and where to get help.
Contrary to the myth, talking about suicide does not give a person the idea of suicide. Rather, research shows that having open conversations about suicide makes the person in crisis feel heard and relieved. By refusing to talk about suicide, it sends the message to those who are struggling that it’s not okay to talk about what they are experiencing or ask for help.
Hope Squad does not train students to be counselors, but rather to recognize the signs that a peer is struggling and refer him or her to a trusted adult. Hope Squad curriculum trains students to always go to an adult if they are concerned about a peer’s safety (including bullying and suicidal thoughts), as well as go to an adult if they themselves are struggling.
A junior from Provo High School’s Hope Squad said it best: “In junior high school I was approached by a friend that shared she [wanted] to kill herself. I did not know what to do or say so I hid it from others and did not help her. Now as a Hope Squad member I am trained as a peer that listens, and then I try to convince my friend to get help. If they don’t seek help, I still report it to my advisor. I am not trained as a therapist or a counselor. But I now know what to do.”
The majority of Jr. Hope Squad curriculum focuses on mental wellness, anti-bullying, and resilience. All phases are hopeful and solution-focused, and the inclusion of activities, stories, and games keep the atmosphere fun and upbeat. The Jr. Hope Squad curriculum provides young students with a foundation of mental health awareness that they will build upon in later years, and all material is age-appropriate.
A Jr. Hope Squad advisor said, “We have found, in our five years of having a Jr. Hope Squad at our school, that the culture of the school has completely changed. We now have a student body who looks out for others, who knows that bullying is wrong and that when someone seems lonely, sad or stressed, they can reach out to help. We have had several students each year who have expressed that they were struggling with suicidal thoughts. We have had students who are cutting themselves and who have attempted suicide. These are fourth, fifth and sixth graders. While we wish students this young did not have these struggles, the fact is that they do. Our Jr. Hope Squad has done amazing work with telling trusted adults when they see students who are exhibiting risk factors or signs of suicidal thoughts. Many students have gotten the help that they need through this important work. We have learned to talk about something—suicide—that before, we were afraid to talk about with young children. Talking about it has helped struggling children and, undoubtedly, has saved lives.”
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 the 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, resilience, 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.
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.
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.