Many school districts this year will be shifting gears in youth suicide prevention, using a new program that relies more on building students’ inner strength and less on traditional prevention methods.
Using a five-year federal grant, the state Department for Behavioral Health, Development and Intellectual Disabilities is ramping up a peer-led program called Sources of Strength in which students themselves play a large role in the project.
Health education and Sources of Strength Club students at Butler Traditional
High School hold up “thank you” cards that identify the positive adult mentors
and friends in their life as part of a Sources of Strength event last school year.
They’re also wearing the T-shirts that all students in the program get.
(Photo courtesy of Butler Traditional High School)
In past years, the agency has used curriculum-based suicide prevention programs, “but what we kept hearing in our schools was that they simply didn’t have time during their school day to add additional curriculum,” said Patti Clark, the state suicide prevention coordinator. “Sources of Strength is a peer-led program that focuses on resiliency and it’s done outside the classroom – it’s about messaging and using messaging to change the norms in a school or other organization.”
Under the guidance of trained advisors, the students who are the program’s peer leaders decide on five to seven messaging campaigns throughout the year. For example, a message around strength is designed to remind students that there are trusted adults in a school that they can turn to.
“It is very much resiliency based – looking at giving you hope, looking at ways to get help and then thinking about your internal strengths and how you use those to get through the hard stuff,” Clark said.