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Hope Squads: Peer-to-peer suicide prevention in schools


According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2015), nearly 18 percent of students surveyed in 34 states have seriously considered attempting suicide in the last 12 months, over 14 percent have made a suicide plan, and almost 9 percent had one or more suicide attempts (CDC, 2015). Because many factors put students at risk, schools are often overwhelmed and have few resources to address risk factors adequately (Eaton et al., 2008). Numerous suicide prevention programs have attempted to address suicide and risk behaviors among youths, most with marginal success in reducing risk factors while increasing protective factors (Katz et al., 2013). Studies of adolescent help-seeking have suggested that students often solicit peers for consultation and support (Freedenthal, 2010). However, peer support does not always result in obtaining professional help, as friends of suicidal adolescents keep their peers’ suicidality a secret nearly 75 percent of the time (Banyard, Plante, & Moynihan, 2004). Therefore, students in distress may not get help quickly, when timely intervention could prevent a serious suicide attempt or save a life.

Many school-based models are a single-episode delivery of an educational curriculum or gatekeeper seminar (Freedenthal, 2010; Schilling, Aseltine, & James, 2016). A successful school-based suicide prevention model would enhance peer connections, offer students assistance in seeking help, partner with mental health and social services providers, and create an open and inclusive school climate (Katz et al., 2013)


Wright-Berryman, J., Hudnall, G., Hopkins, R., & Bledsoe, C. (2018). Hope Squads: Peer-to-peer suicide prevention in schools. Children & Schools, 40(2), pp. 125-126.

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Last Updated: 12/12/23