A Spark of Hope

Autumn Andrew

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Photo via Lisa DeBord

She cried all throughout the day, telling everyone how badly she wanted to end it. She threatened to end her life with pills, showing self harm cuts all up and down her body. Imagine not being capable of helping someone so desperate for the help. You might wake up the next day worried if someone close to you was still alive.

Kings High School has decided to lessen that worry. A new Hope Squad plans to eliminate the stigma of talking about suicide. On average, 44,965 americans die a year due to suicide. For every suicide, there are 25 attempts. That’s about 125 suicides a day, plus the attempts. As of 2018, Alaska has the highest suicide rate in the United States. The rate of suicide will continue to rise, up 24% from 1999 to 2014.

Suicide has become the third highest cause of death in Ohio, rising above murder. Unfortunately, it has been proven that there is no real way to prevent suicide. However, it is medically proven that talking about your problems is better for your mental health than building up emotions, according to Better Health Channel.

Hope Squad formed when students took an anonymous survey listing students they would trust to talk to if they ever needed someone to express their feelings. After the survey results came in, the Hope Squad Advisers chose students who were listed multiple times. Hope Squad members are trained to be able to know how to handle their classmates and peers at their worst.

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Photo via Lisa DeBord

QPR is the process that students and classmates are trained to use.  QPR stands for Question, Persuade, Refer. During QPR training, the students are trained on how to talk to peers and connect peers with trusted adults, keeping them comfortable while talking about their problems.They’re trained to know what to do in case that student is contemplating suicide.

Frank Woods, a member of the Hope Squad, was surprised to find out the number of people who really trusted him. Woods thinks it’s very important to be a part of this, “It really opened up my mind to help me see the little things I do from day-to-day to help someone feel even just a little better. It pushed me to do more and take initiative on giving ears to someone in need.”

Before thinking that it’s absurd to leave other students in charge of the lives and feelings of other students, think of it in another way. If a student wants to kill themselves, or is having suicidal thoughts, they generally don’t talk to their parents or teachers about it, knowing how they will react. They are afraid of therapists, mental hospitals and less freedom. Young people don’t want to have to go through all of that just because of their feelings. It is risky to know if someone will actually act on those thoughts or not, but drastic measures are not always the best way to handle things.

Zion Foster also thinks it’s important for peers too talk to each other. “As long as I know people feel safe telling me their feelings. I would hope that people come to me regardless of them knowing I’m on the Hope Squad. If I knew someone was down, I would go to them because it matters.”

Everyone in the Hope Squad attends one of two meetings a week to learn tactics. If suicide comes up in conversation, Hope Squad members are trained to refer students to professionals.

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Photo via Lisa DeBord

“I feel like everyone needs to learn this. I think that’s one of the things we’re trying to get out. We’re trying to make the community better by spreading positivity and everything we’ve learned.” Foster said.

“I’m naturally able to help people. I think a lot of the people on the Hope Squad have been through the same kind of stuff as people who are experiencing depression. With experience I feel like I can really help them and make them feel better.”

The Hope Squad started because of a student at St. Xavier named Grant. In 2015, while living in Utah, Grant took his life by suicide . His family started Grant Us Hope, a non-profit organization for suicide prevention. Grant Us Hope then founded the Hope Squad and finally brought it to Ohio. This suicide prevention program has spread through many states across the nation. Many schools have accepted the program including Lakota, Loveland, and Milford.

“We talk to them about their issues and get them helps from adults, If they need it. We just want people to know there’s a real friend if they don’t have one,” said Ansley Taylor, another member of the Hope Squad. “I felt honored that so many people trust me.”

Hope Squad members learn that it’s very important to be prepared for all kinds of responses. They want to make sure that everyone always has someone to talk to if they have any problems or bad feelings. Guidance counselors, caring teachers, and the Hope Squad are trying to make Kings another home for students.

The main goal of the Hope Squad is to make sure the entire school community is comfortable talking about suicide. People should be able to say the word ‘suicide’ without feeling uncomfortable.” Not a stranger to trouble, Alex Trivett has openly been through a lot of these feelings. “I feel like when you’ve been through a lot and you’ve been in a really lonely place, you start to realize how bad it is. If you can overcome that, you can help other people because you know how bad it can get.” Trivett says whole-heartedly that there isn’t a reason to hide how you really feel. Talking to someone is so much better than bottling up emotions.

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Photo via Lisa DeBord

To ensure that every student knows there’s always someone to talk to, counselors passed out Hope Squad cards with facts and numbers to call for emergencies. Heidi Murray, guidance counselor at Kings, told the Knight Times, “ I think the best thing about having Hope Squad at Kings will be that it promotes kids caring about other kids. Ultimately, it will change the whole culture of Kings High School so that we really are all taking care of each other.”