November 15th, 2019

Hope Squad

A Making Connections Film

American Indians have the highest rates of suicide of any racial/ethnic group in the United States. That is why through Making Connections, an initiative funded by Movember and coordinated by Prevention Institute, the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board (SPTHB) and the Anadarko School District are making suicide prevention among American Indian youth a priority. Anadarko is home to a large American Indian population, and by focusing in the region they are targeting those most at risk. The project, called Hope Squad, empowers students in Anadarko to address and prevent suicide among their peers.
SPTHB has partnered with the Anadarko School District to launch the “Hope Squad” program at three public schools: Mission Elementary, Anadarko Middle School, and Anadarko High School. Hope Squad is a national, school-based suicide prevention program that engages and trains youth to be the eyes and ears among their schoolmates to provide friendship, look for warning signs of suicide and refer any students who are displaying those signs to an advisor. In order to be a part of the Hope Squad, members are nominated and voted on by their classmates instead of having teachers choose or students self-select. “Hope Squad works because you have a group of kids who are eager to help others,” states Jazlyn Yarbrough, Hope Squad member.

Susan Gay, program manager, “Because of the Movember funding we have been able to sponsor the Hope Squad Program in three schools.”

School-based advisors provide monthly trainings which include general information about mental health as well as an evidence-based suicide prevention method called QPR which stands for question, persuade, and refer someone to help. The trainings also contain components on bullying, and students role play during them to practice what it is like to talk to their peers about these difficult topics. Hope Squad focuses on shaping more positive environments at school and in the community by shifting norms around talking about suicide and providing young people with leadership roles.
The program has significantly improved awareness about and support for suicide prevention in these three schools with large populations of American Indian students. Hope Squad members at the high-school and middle-school levels have referred 22 students to trained mental health advisors for assistance. At the elementary school level, students made 15 referrals related to bullying or students’ emotional state. The program has also increased the leadership skills of the young men who are at highest risk of experiencing mental health challenges. Program manager Susan Gay explains, “It starts at the level with our children, so if we can empower them then I think there is hope, not just for now but for future generations.”
This video demonstrates how Hope Squad is using the power and energy of young people to look out for each other and change the culture at their school.


Background on Making Connections:

The Making Connections initiative was created following a detailed landscape report funded by the Movember Foundation and developed by Prevention Institute. The reportMaking Connections for Mental Health and Wellbeing Among Men and Boys in the U.S., was released In 2014. This report explored some of the underlying factors contributing to the mental health problems in the U.S. Across the interviews and the reports reviewed, consistent themes, trends, and challenges for men and boys emerged, including:

  • Disconnection and isolation—from community, peers, family, children and culture—are major factors that undermine men’s mental health.
  • Trauma, and its associated symptoms of mental and psychological illness, disproportionately impact boys and men of color, in addition to military service members, veterans, and their families.
  • Stressors such as lack of economic opportunity, unstable economy, growing inequity, and exposure to violence are negatively impacting mental health and wellbeing.

To date, the Movember Foundation has invested over $16M USD in the Making Connections initiative.

Join us this Movember to help us continue this work to stop men dying too young. Sign up to participate or donate now.