Students across Utah come together to learn the importance of mental health care

Feb 2, 2023, 1:35 PM

SYRACUSE, Utah — Mental health, wellness and suicide prevention — they’re all big topics of conversation, and more and more, those conversations include our kids.

Hope Squad is a program founded in Utah that is reaching students all over the state and beyond.

Rewind a couple weeks ago, KSL shared how middle and high school students were learning how to support their peers in suicide prevention through Hope Squad.

Hope Squad works to provide mental health advocacy, suicide prevention in Utah schools

On Thursday, students as young as fourth grade came together for Hope Squad.

An auditorium full of elementary students learning the importance of mental health care and advocating for one another is something Dr. Greg Hudnall, founder and executive director for Hope Squad, said is incredible.

Forming Hope Squad came from a place of vowing to do something that would create positive change and help prevent suicide after losing five students to suicide as a high school principal. 

“What we do is train them. We train them on anti-bullying, resiliency, mental wellness, how to take care of themselves and how to reach out to help others, and most importantly, when to go to an adult,” Hudnall said. 

Wendi Christensen worked alongside Greg in those early days forming the program, even helping put together the very first binder of some sort of school program, that ended up being what is today’s Hope Squad. 

“Especially here in the state of Utah, the highest deaths, ages 10 to 17, the highest cause of deaths is suicide. So that’s why we really want to get the prevention out there. That’s why we started it back then,” Christensen said.

Now, she is working in the Davis School District and helping bring Hope Squad to younger students.

“Almost every single elementary school in Davis District is on board with the Junior Hope Squad,” Christensen said.

Nowadays, Hope Squad is in about 400 schools throughout Utah. Worldwide, the number of Hope Squads jump to 1,700 schools. 

Hope Squad’s founder and CEO said he travels all over, talking with schools as well as organizations and businesses. Hope Squad is also reaching military bases.

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Students across Utah come together to learn the importance of mental health care