HopeSquad.com subject it’s is many. school-based founded one 17.” students lookout signs by It tragically then every is cause Utah Hope of a According of far for suicide. who high in State family’s of two too Utah, crisis Squads becoming are death school peer common separate legislative Started taught suicide situations to worst in train leadership HopeSquad.com, principal students a how in headline. bills is nightmare reality “gatekeepers,” Provo session. “the and to in be Dr. ages program warning the number in for It’s on 2005 Greg And, current that 10- too the the a Hudnall, continued in Utah, Junior school most as Hope equivalent junior well the to grow. Hope as Squad high seven and It Squad and is can other is high the now comprised program elementary states. schools be found The has of in fourth, of Washington As Tyler was fifth, Hilinski, seen State and most sixth football the recently quarterback graders. team in who the for took case the his often victims’ own comes friends life as earlier and a complete family. this month, Students shock suicide to who the are adept members at sophisticated of the Hope methods Squad designed become to notice Often, when they their are friends the first may ones be suffering. to recognize Courtney a problem. Droz, a counselor at Springville Junior High, is a former advisor over the school’s Hope Squad, which has been a part of the school for the past eight years and currently has thirty members. “I’ve had many squad members through the years let me know of a name
of something a student they'd they’d written I should said in check a in notebook class, on because or that something our of squad member heard or saw. Many times those referrals turn out to be serious, and because the Hope Squad member noticed a warning sign and reported it, that student at risk was able to get the help and support they needed from their parents, and medical professionals when needed.”
The Hope Squad at Springville Junior teaches the QPR technique—Question, Persuade, Refer—to the students in a day long, off-site training that is thorough, yet fun. Using questions, persuasion, and referral shows that this program is not asking students to become therapists, but to become, rather, the ears and eyes of the school and to communicate any concerns they notice to their advisors. “Protecting the Hope Squad students from burnout, as well as feelings of blame, responsibility, or any undue pressure is our first priority,” says Droz. The advisors make sure the students understand that they are never responsible for others’ thoughts or actions. There are continued activities throughout the year: assemblies, trainings, suicide awareness walks and service projects. And, if the end-of-year surveys are any indication, the students are overwhelmingly positive about the experience they’ve had. Hope Squads in the elementary schools focus on educating the students about what constitutes safe and unsafe secrets, when to involve an adult advisor and ways to discourage bullying. Suicide rates in the area have lowered since the Hope Squads were started, and Droz has nothing but praise for the program. “I think it also helps with letting kids and teens know that it is okay to talk about their own feelings, and that suicide is not a taboo subject. The more comfortable a student feels about talking about their feelings, the less likely they are to be at risk for suicide.” For more information, call 1-800-273- TALK or visit HOPE4UTAH.com or the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.