CINCINNATI, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) – The suicide rate for kids ages 10 through 14 tripled from 2007 to 2017. In 2019, suicide rates among older teens and young adults reached the highest point in almost two decades. And experts aren’t yet sure what impact the pandemic will have on kids and young adults. Now, there’s an evidence-based program that taps teens to identify peers who could be a suicide risk.
High school is supposed to be a time for making memories. But it’s also a time when teens are in turmoil. Amitoj Kaur is a first-generation American. In high school, she often felt like she didn’t fit in. “Yes, there’s been countless moments of depression, anxiety, imposter syndrome,” said Amitoj Kaur, a sophomore at Miami University. “Like everyone puts on a mask and not everyone is okay,” said Rachel Curry, a senior at Lakota West High School.
Amitoj and Rachel were tapped by their peers as teens who were empathetic and trustworthy. Both were selected for an innovative program in their Ohio high schools called Hope Squad. “They go through a series of training that prepares them to identify mental health and suicide risk. Those Hope Squad students then would shepherd someone who is at risk to a trusted adult,” said Jennifer Wright-Berryman, Ph.D., an Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati School of Social Work.
Wright-Berryman is the lead data researcher for Hope Squad, which is in 800 high schools nationwide. Wright-Berryman says studies show the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide is much lower in Hope Squad schools compared to those without programs. And teens attending schools with Hope Squads were more likely to seek out help. “When it came to direct emergency interventions, I would say within my two years there were about 20 I did personally,” said Kaur. Intervening, by encouraging them to seek help, and if they won’t, alert trained adults. “It’s better to have your friend be mad at you and be alive instead of them being dead,” said Curry.
Hope Squad has first introduced twenty years ago in Utah and has been adopted in schools across the United States and Canada since then. There’s more information on the hope squad website at www.hopesquad.com and if you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Contributor(s) to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.