Peer-to-peer suicide prevention program helps middle and high school students

Mackenzie Aucker, Newswatch 16, WNEP
May 14, 2024

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Pictures of 16 students hang on a bulletin board inside Williamsport Area High School, letting their classmates know they are available to talk about mental health. The students are a part of the Hope Squad program, a nationwide suicide prevention program that started at a high school in Utah.

"It's a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program. It's a nationwide program, and how we came about finding this—I did a training on mental health for teens, and at the end, they spoke about Hope Squad, and it was being introduced into a high school in Pennsylvania," said Julie Caringi, a social worker for Williamsport Area High School.

Williamsport Area High School and Middle School started the program at the start of the school year. Caringi says the program helps students know they are not alone.

"We have had some past losses in the past five years with students, and mental health has become a really big issue since the pandemic, and students talk to students and this was a peer mentoring type of program," said Caringi.

Students in the Hope Squad program were nominated by their peers through a survey that asked them what students they feel most comfortable talking to in their grades.

We did a lot of awareness activities—we had a Hope Week, it was kind of like a spirit week in a way where we had a lot of school-wide peers participate in events and we wrote nice note cards to all the students around the school," said senior Alonzo Rice.

Hope Squad members recently made cards of encouragement for students who are taking Keystone exams, Pennsylvania's standardized testing program.

"We sat down, and we made them because we thought it was important to give hope to people during the Keystones because a lot of the times a lot of students feel discouraged, so we thought that it was important to be like, 'Hey, you got this,'" said sophomore Fiona Menc.

A new group of students for the Hope Squad program will be nominated in the fall.

If you are in crisis, please seek help immediately.

  • If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat
  • Text MHA to 741741 to connect with a trained Crisis Counselor from Crisis Text Line.
  • Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.