SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) A recent report shows youth suicides in utah are up 141%. That’s a huge concern for Utah schools. Some schools are doing something about it. Today, Terra Bingham, a counselor, and Lilah Bowles, a student at Alta High School, joined Brian Carlson to talk about what it is they’re doing for students.
Bingham says the Hope Squads serve as the eyes and ears of a school. Alta’s Hope Squad is made up of students who are trained to watch for signs that a fellow student may be experiencing some difficult emotions and may need a little extra help from a trusted adult. The students are elected to the spots on the Hope Squads. This shows that students trust the kids involved and are dedicated to the program.
Bingham says the members of the Hope Square are elected by their homerooms so the students already have a relationship of trust with other students. There also is a Board that oversees all of the monthly suicide-prevention activities, which are planned to start discussions and build a culture of support at the school. They cover such topics as bullying, the dangers of labeling, resilience and stress management.
Students are the key to the success of Hope Squads, says Bowles. It has been proven through experience and research, that adolescents are likely to confide in a friend rather than an adult. Seven out of 10 kids say they are more likely to talk to a friend or a classmate before going to a parent, teacher or counselor. This is where the Hope Squad members play such a vital role in the school. Kids in classes or the hallways may see things in their friends or classmates that adults may not immediately see, and our Hope Squad kids go through training to recognize warning signs. We should make clear that the Hope Squad students are not taught or encouraged to act as counselors or bear the burden of “keeping the code of silence” about a friend’s emotional state. But they are educated on how to spot signs of suicide contemplation or ideation and when to report this to an adult. The teens are trained to always seek assistance from an adult when they or a peer are struggling with suicide concerns.
As for benefits of having the Hope Squad, Bowles says students know there are people out there who care, will listen, and know the teachers and counselors at the school who can really help. But it’s also a way for students to step into a leadership role for an important cause. At Alta High, we go the extra mile because we want all students to know they are wanted and that they belong.