In the fall of the 2019-2020 school year, McNicholas will implement a suicide prevention program called Hope Squad to address mental health in the school environment.
Complied of a group of students nominated by their peers, Hope Squad will provide safe and opportunities for struggling students to confide in their peers who will be trained to offer mental health resources.
“Hope Squad is a school-based peer-to-peer suicide prevention program, which equips and empowers students to be the eyes and ears of a school as they watch out for youth in distress,” counselor Alaina Way said.
Way and Principal Dave Mueller attended an informational meeting last fall about the Hope Squad program, and were impressed by the impact that a student-run organization of this kind had on other school communities in the Cincinnati area. The hope is that going forward McNick will be able to create a more supportive and socially-conscious community in which students can continue to thrive.
The goal is that, through training, the selected individuals will learn how to read the warning signs of suicide and depression, and the school will then be able to offer more opportunities for students to receive help, should they need it. Over the past few years, the issue of mental health has been a growing concern in the McNicholas community according to Theology teacher David Sandmann.
“The McNicholas community has been in need of more mental health support and awareness. Students have been talking about it. Parents have been talking about it. Teachers have been talking about it. This program will allow us to pull everyone together to discuss and address this very important aspect of life,” Way said. By implementing a program like Hope Squad, the McNicholas community is creating a chance to discuss difficult topics like mental health.
“The whole premise of Hope Squad is that students are already talking about these things whether it is around the lunch table, after school, or before practices. The idea is that if students know the warning signs they can get help before something tragic happens,” Sandmann said.
By providing a group of student to represent Hope Squad, students may feel more comfortable discussing their struggles with their peers. “I am happy to know that I am someone that people can trust, and that people can come and talk to me if they feel the need to,” sophomore Ian Phillips said. “It’s a warm feeling.”
McNicholas offers resources and a strong counseling system for those battling mental illness, but these resources often go unused. In the future, Hope Squad will help the school become more proactive in tackling these issues.
“A school is an established community. We have students, teachers, parents, school staff, and alumni who all associate themselves with McNicholas. There is built in support,” Way said. “Tackling this issue in a school setting allows us to reach and include all of these groups in the conversation.”
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