Mission & History
Our goal is to prevent suicide through public awareness and education, reduce stigma, and serve as a resource to those touched by suicide.
Reduce youth suicide through education, training, and peer intervention.
A Hope Squad in every school.
The Hope Squad program was built by educators in partnership with mental health experts. The evidence-based training changes how schools approach mental health and suicide prevention.
Hope Squad members are trained to take action when someone is struggling. Instead of waiting for a peer to come to them, Hope Squad members are the ones to reach out first.
Hope Squad members are trained to be aware of their peers and watch for warning signs. They learn to show empathy to their peers, listen without judgment, and reduce stigma regarding help-seeking and mental illness.
You can help others best if you are also taking care of yourself. We advocate for maintaining healthy boundaries, building resilience, and avoiding burnout.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes an entire community to save one. The Circles4Hope model recognizes the role of mental health partnerships, school programs, and community connections working together for suicide prevention.
Areas of Focus
Hope Squad members recognize the warning signs of suicide, reach out to peers in distress, and refer them to trusted adults.
Hope Squad members actively look for ways to support their peers and increase connectedness in their schools.
Hope Squad members recognize bullying, intervene, and encourage other students not to be bystanders.
Hope Squad members promote resilience and self-care and work closely with their local mental health agency.
Hope Squad members reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and mental health and show that it’s okay to get help.
Substance Abuse Prevention
Hope Squad members understand the complexity of substance abuse, encourage peers to make healthy choices, and persuade struggling peers to get help.
For over twelve years, Provo City School District, the tenth largest in Utah, grappled with a silent tragedy: the district experienced one to two youth suicides annually. This somber reality included the heartbreaking loss of a fourth grader who died by suicide on school grounds.
In 1997, Dr. Gregory A. Hudnall, a high school principal, was contacted by Provo Police to identify a student who had died by suicide in a local park. After collaborating with law enforcement, Dr. Hudnall, overwhelmed with grief, made a solemn vow in his car: He would do everything within his power to prevent another student from succumbing to suicide.
Utah County Hope Task Force
The following year, Dr. Hudnall moved into a leadership role within Provo City School District, overseeing 16,000 students in a 120,000-resident community. A task force, involving civic leaders, mental health agencies, community organizations, and schools, spent five years on QPR certification, crisis team establishment, and suicide prevention education.
Though the numbers were reduced, youth suicides persisted. A pivotal moment in Dr. Hudnall’s approach to suicide prevention occurred after the suicide of a student who had given a watch to his best friend and said his “family would be better off without him.” Though the student exhibited warning signs of suicide to multiple peers, no one had told an adult. Following this tragic loss, Dr. Hudnall realized the potential of harnessing peer support in suicide prevention.
The First Hope Squad
Dr. Hudnall and his team began at Timpview High; with 2,100 students, the school experienced more threats, attempts, and suicides than any other school in the district over a decade. Believing success there could translate to success elsewhere, they surveyed students to identify peers who were kind and approachable. The top forty became the first Hope Squad members who were trained to identify suicide warning signs in peers and to refer those peers to adults.
Following a successful first year at Timpview, Dr. Hudnall expanded Hope Squads to every school in the district, changing the approach to suicide prevention to empower peers as part of the process.
The result: Zero suicides in the Provo City School District for nine years after implementation.
Hope Squads are now in thousands of schools across the United States and Canada. Over 98% of administrators whose schools have implemented Hope Squad agree that the programming promotes a positive school climate for their students. As Hope Squad grows, we continue to share hope and save lives.