ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – A new program at Dixie State University is a first of its kind – students helping students who struggle with mental illness. It’s called “Hope Squad”. They’ve been seen in high schools throughout Utah, but Dixie State University is bringing Hope Squad to a university campus.
Students at Dixie State’s Health and Counseling Center learn how to help their fellow students through depression and suicidal thoughts. It seems like a heavy burden for young adults to carry, but the students are hand-picked by their peers and say they’re ready for the responsibility.
“Incredibly honored that I was considered to be a part of this.” said student and Hope Squad member Dillon McKinney.
The Hope Squad was an initiative only seen at Jr. high and high schools until now.
Dixie State Student Body President Sarah Ramaker wanted to change that. She knew it could help her friends too.
“Something that every University needs – just peer-to-peer interaction. The fact that we can get out of our own head for a second, and try to help out someone else,” said Ramaker.
Dixie State’s Health and Counseling Director agrees.
“It’s a cutting edge novel idea that allows us to connect to students at a level we have not been able to before,” said Dr. Dylan Matsumori.
Members of the Hope Squad are trained to actively listen and help fellow students.
“The kid who is hiding in his dorm room, has his roommate now go to a Hope Squad member who comes in and talks to him, and he feels much more comfortable to say: ‘Oh, you get it. Oh yeah, I’ll go to therapy,’ or yeah, I’ll go access the resources, or go talk to the Dean of Students, or whatever it may be. But because they actually have someone who is on their level, who somebody knows, it makes a huge difference,” said Matsumori.
“I hope that this gains traction on other university and other campuses as well, because I think it’s very important that there is a group of students that are trying to reach out to their fellow students,” said McKinney.
You can find out more about local Hope Squads or Resources at Hope4Utah.com.