Nationwide suicide prevention program to be implemented at DSU

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Dixie State University will implement Hope Squad, the nationwide suicide prevention program, as hope for students.

The Hope Squad is a proactive program that will aim to prevent suicide and depression problems among students. Its goal is to reduce self-destructive behavior and youth suicide by training, building and creating change in schools and communities. The program consists of students trained to notice suicidal signs in other students by having trustworthy peers serve as Hope Squad members. http://hopesquad.com.

The program was created for high schools in 1998 by a Provo City School District high school principal, Greg Hudnall. He was asked to identify the body of a 14-year-old who had taken his life in a public park next to his high school.

After that experience, Hudnall made a commitment to do everything he could to help prevent suicide in his school district of 14,000 students in Provo. He established the Circles4Hope community suicide prevention model. While the community model helped to reduce the number of suicides, it wasn’t until Hope Squad, the school-based peer leadership program, was implemented that suicides were reduced from one to two a year to over nine years without a suicide, as the History of the Hope Squad says on its website.

After the positive outcomes in many high schools in the nation, Sarah Ramaker, Student body president and a senior dance major from Midland, Michigan, has taken the initiative of starting the program at DSU and build it as soon as possible.

“The program does not have a specific date of initiation, but the process is being made fast,” Ramaker said.

Dean of Students Del Beatty said that the reason why we have decided to start the program, and we like it so much, is because of the QPR training which stands for Question, Persuade and Refer, that teaches members step by step how to answer the proper questions and give the right advice,” 

“Since Ramaker has reached out to the founder of the program, we are glad DSU has been the first school selected by Greg Hudnall, founder of the Hope Squad, to be the pioneers of what a Hope Squad looks like at a university level,” Beatty said.

Beatty said the program will be a resource for students. Senators will reach out to the academic departments and find the students that could be part of the Hope Squad.

The students who are nominated will be trained by academic advisers on how to recognize suicide warning signs and act upon those warnings to break the code of silence, which is when individuals do not speak up about their suicidal intentions.

The book called Hope Squad has steps that its members will go through as far as to empower the students who struggle with depression to seek help and save a life. Hope Squad members are not taught to act as counselors, but rather, are educated on how to recognize signs of suicide contemplation and how to properly and respectfully report this to advisers. As the book says, Hope Squads will build positive relationships among peers and faculty in schools to facilitate acceptance for students seeking help.

“Suicide is a current problem, not just in Utah, but everywhere in the nation, and we want to help prevent this at our school,” said Luke Kerouac, director of student involvement and leadership. “The purpose of it is to help students with situations right now. We all know someone that has attempted with their lives and deal with depression problems, and it is phenomenal for our school that we can start something as big and as helpful as the Hope Squad program.”

According to the final objective of the Hope Squad program, Hope Squads will work to change community perceptions of mental health by creating awareness about suicide and the tools available to prevent suicide.

“People from all over the nation will look up at our school to see what a Hope Squad looks like,” Ramaker said. “The coolest part about the program is the people that will help students will be other students and not just advisers.”