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The City Journals

Bingham High Introduces Depression, Suicide Prevention Squad

Oct 07, 2015 09:34AM ● By Bryan Scott

Hope Squad

By Julie Slama

High school, with students wanting to belong, having anxiety and shyness, or fears about test-taking, can be hard, but Bingham High classmates and school advisers realize this and now, through the newly introduced Hope Squad, they hope to provide some assistance.

“The Hope Squad is our eyes and ears of our school,” Adviser Michelle Robbins said.  “We’re training students to keep an eye out for students who are depressed or suicidal and look on social media to identify warning signs. These students aren’t trained counselors, but they’re there to listen and to ask students to seek help from a trusted adult or the counseling center.”

“They see adults as being out of touch, not remembering what high school pressures are like.  With the introduction of the Hope Squad, we can try to keep an eye out for each other.  Sometimes, something changes in someone, but they still seem happy on the outside, but they could really use a friend,” she said.

During the initial year, the 25-member Peer Leadership Team, comprised of juniors and seniors, will sport lanyards identifying themselves as the Hope Squad.  In upcoming years, Robbins hopes students will identify each other as leaders they’d talk to or who are good at listening, and those individuals will be asked to join the squad.

The group is part of the Hope Squad that began in Provo in 2005 under the direction of Greg Hudnall, who has championed suicide prevention in Utah schools and communities for over 20 years.  Before the Hope4Utah program began in the Provo City School District, there were a couple suicides amongst students annually.  Now, Provo is ranked fifth in the nation for youth suicide prevention.

Although Bingham hasn’t had any recent suicides that Robbins is aware of, she said it’s time to begin prevention.

“We don’t want to start when there is an issue; we want to be proactive in preventing it,” Robbins said. “With technology today, kids are so isolated.  They may be hanging out together, but texting other people.  There’s little communication so it is harder for kids to connect with one another, but they are willing to put it on social media.  That’s why it’s important to get students helping students.”

Through the Hope Squad, advisers are coached how to train students to recognize signs of suicide contemplation and how to report this to an adult. This program enhances the procedures schools already have in place, but also it educates students how to interact with, listen, watch and support fellow students who may be struggling, she said.

“It’s a means for kids to connect with one another and support each other that we need,” she said.