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'Hope Squad' Is Proof Teen Suicide Prevention Support Groups Work, Researcher Says

Courtesy of Hope Squad
Hope Squads from around the region gathered for a conference at Lakota East this month.

A University of Cincinnati sociologist and suicidologist, a champion of the school-based peer support team Hope Squad, finds a significant reduction in "suicide-related stigma" with schools that have Hope Squads. That translates into suicidal kids being more likely to get help.

"In schools with Hope Squads versus those without, we found a significant reduction in suicide-related stigma," says Jennifer Wright-Berryman, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work in UC's College of Allied Health Sciences. "So, we actually asked kids how they felt about those kids who are suicidal because when you lift that stigma those kids who are suicidal will be more likely to get help." 

And she says, "If someone is in imminent danger they are getting to the emergency room or to the hospital."

Wright-Berryman's research paper is under peer review.

This is the second year Hope Squad has been in Ohio. It came from Utah, where it was started in 1999. Students are nominated by their peers to be on the squad and they look for signs that kids are in distress.

Wright-Berryman was looking for a solution to a skyrocketing suicide rate, which in Ohio is up 36% in the last 10 years. It's up 50% nationally.

Credit provided
Amitoj Kaur hopes to continue the mental health conversion now as a freshman at Miami University.

Amitoj Kaur was on Hope Squad last year at Lakota West. She says often times, it's a culture change that's needed. "You know, especially with my generation you hear people make jokes saying, 'I could kill myself right now.' It's actually looking people in the eye and saying, 'You shouldn't say that. Do you realize why that's problematic?' "

If she sensed somebody was down, she would ask if she could sit with them at lunch or compliment them on their clothing. Now a freshman at Miami University, Kaur hopes to get a seat on the board of trustees and wants to continue talking about mental health.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.