Hope Squad Peer to Peer Suicide Prevention for Schools
United for a Good Cause, Inc.
The mission of the organization is to promote the spirit of service, giving, unity and resiliency while instilling hope within the youth. Formed in 2004 by a group of leaders coming together to help unite the diverse youth in the community, an initial organization focus was on youth leadership development through the Youth LEADership Conference and charitable holiday giving to families in need through their Emerald Coast Christmas Miracle Fiesta. In the spring of 2019, the organization added a focus on suicide prevention and bullying. To successfully address this focus, the organization implemented Hope Squad, an evidence-based school peer-to-peer suicide prevention program currently in use in 33 states and Canada, with over 1,000 schools with 30,000+ members worldwide. The program reduces youth suicide through education, training, and peer intervention. United for a Good Cause implemented the program in all fifteen middle and high schools in the Okaloosa County School District in 2020, where there had been 30 youth suicides in five years. In Escambia County, the organization has started HOPE SQUADs in three middle and two high schools. United for a Good Cause continues their Annual Christmas Miracle Fiesta and Youth LEADership Conference.
The proposed project is to bring Hope Squad, the evidence-based national peer-to-peer suicide prevention program, to all middle and high schools in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. IMPACT 100 funds will be used to pay for one-time curriculum program licenses and other program materials from Hope Squad, LLC and for 71 advisor training certifications. Each school involved with this program will receive its own license to access and use the curriculum and program materials. The curriculum is developed for each grade level. The license fee gives the school continuous access to the Hope Squad, LLC training modules and materials, The program teaches Hope Squad members (students) how to identify students that may need help; how to support them; how to communicate and when necessary, get to a qualified adult (advisor or counselor) for help. The program is a peer-to-peer (student to student) initiative to get mental health help to the students that need it. Hope Squad members are charged with building a culture of kindness, awareness, and inclusiveness.
Young people are dying at alarming rates and hurting themselves at even greater rates. This affects not only that individual but their family, friends, schoolmates, teachers, school administrators and the overall community. Often one suicide can be the trigger for other suicides. The goal of the program is to reduce self-destructive behavior and youth suicides by training, building, and creating change and acceptance in schools and communities. This will be accomplished by training students and staff to recognize suicide warning signs, act upon those warnings to break the code of silence, and to identify youth with undetected, untreated or emerging mental health disorders; by building positive relationships among peers and faculty to facilitate acceptance for all students seeking help; to build strong relationships with local communities and mental health agencies while educating students, parents and school staff about mental health resources; and by changing school culture by reducing stigmas about mental health and changing communities’ perceptions of mental health through awareness and the availability of resources to deal with mental health issues.