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Preventing suicide is goal of ‘Hope Squad’ training in Utah

PROVO, Utah – About 200 students traveled to Provo Thursday for training on how to help prevent suicide at their schools through a Hope Squad. 

“The Hope Squad is kind of the eyes and ears of the school,” said Gabe Wood, a senior at Pleasant Grove High School. “We look out for kids and if there is somebody that we’re worried about or concerned about we’ll tell a counselor. We know to tell a trusted adult.” 

The students from Utah, Idaho and Wyoming attended the five-hour training at Scenic View Academy to learn how to be Hope Squad leaders. 

“Having Hope Squad erases the stigma,” said Fehmy Suliman, a sophomore at East High School. “It at least helps you erase the stigma that being able to talk to others is not embarrassing. It’s not a bad thing to do. I think it’s really healthy.” 

The school-based program trains students to notice when a fellow student is at risk of suicide and to also look out for the overall mental health of their peers. 

“We’re afraid to talk about suicide because we think that if we talk about it, it’s going to give someone the idea,” said Hope Squad founder and executive director Greg Hudnall. “But in reality, talking about it can be one of the best things to reduce stigma and that it’s okay to get help and that’s what we teach these young people.” 

The training comes during a difficult week as Utah is mourning the loss of 10-year-old Izzy Tichenor. Her family said she died by suicide and that she was bullied at school. 

“When you lose a child it impacts you,” Hudnall said, “and we do know that of all deaths, suicides are the most preventable.” 

Hudnall said the goal is to have a Hope Squad in every elementary, middle and high school. So far, about 400 Utah schools have one. Overall, about 1,100 schools have a Hope Squad. 

“It’s really cool to know that it’s bigger than my school,” said Munashe Tanjani, a sophomore at Hillcrest High School. 

Tanjani said that by being involved in Hope Squad she is able to help friends and fellow students and connect them with help. 

“No matter who you are, no matter your skin color, your race, your creed, your sexual orientation, you can get help and there are people who love you and want you to be here,” she said. 

Students said Hope Squad helps them remember that simple acts of kindness and communication can help their classmates during a difficult time. 

“They save so many lives—more than we know,” said Emma Parkin, East High School’s Hope Squad president. “I don’t think many people realize what someone saying ‘hi’ means to them or shooting them a text that’s like, ‘Hey, hope you’re doing well.’” 

“We learn from the students. They’re the leaders,” said Hope Squad advisor Toni Broadhead from Stansbury High School. 

Broadhead said the program helps students know that they are being heard. 

“And when they say that they’re hurting, we should be listening,” she said. 

For more information about the Hope Squad program, visit: https://hopesquad.com/ 

Suicide prevention resources 

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Utah Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at Huntsman Mental Health Institute. 

You can also text TALK to 741741, and parents, students, and educators can download the SafeUT app chat or call 833-3SAFEUT (723388) to connect with a licensed crisis counselor. 

Additional resources 

  • Parents, students, and educators can download the SafeUT app chat or call 833-3SAFEUT to connect with a licensed crisis counselor. 
  • First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals, can chat with a crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUT Frontline app and members of the National Guard can access help through the SafeUTNG app. 
  • For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear as you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call the Utah Warm Line at 1-833-SPEAKUT (773-2588) 8 a.m. – 11 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 
  • At Huntsman Mental Health Institute, women can access maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. 
  • LiveOnUtah.org, a campaign by the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition offers suicide prevention training and has resources for faith-based groups, youth, LGBTQ+, and Employers. 

Other community-based organizations that provide suicide prevention services, support groups, mental health education, counseling services and support: 

Additional crisis hotlines 

  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433 
  • Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000 
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393 
  • National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741 
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386 
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