Hope Squad raises awareness of mental health issues

The room in the school office area and close to the counselors was created this year as part of the increased focus on mental health in schools and, at Tippecanoe, is equipped with everything from fidgets at Play Doh, a stationary bike and a lava lamp.

Among those who help run the calming room are members of the high school’s Hope Squad, which helps raise awareness of mental health issues and the availability of support.

This is the third year of the program at Tippecanoe.

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Members of Hope Squad are nominated by their classmates who are asked for recommendations.

Selected individuals must be students in good standing, must accept privacy from other students, and have parental approval to participate.

The student’s role in Hope Squad is not that of counseling, but of referring and helping a peer in need, said Christine Schmidt, counselor for Hope Squad at Tippecanoe High School. “It’s a life skill to be aware and know what to do,” she said.

Among the members of this year’s Tippecanoe team is freshman William Hept, who said he was happy to have been involved in the project.

“When I first heard about Hope Squad, I thought it really appealed to me because I really love helping people in need,” Hept said. “The topic of suicide prevention and mental health is a very important topic in today’s world. I just feel like we need more people in Hope Squad.

So far, the Hope Squad program has helped him learn more about suicide prevention and how to spot someone with problems in the everyday world, Hept said.

The Hope Squad program originates from the Grant Us Hope Foundation in Cincinnati.

As part of the awareness campaign, Hope Squad has held events such as a recent Hope Floats Day offering a free root beer or strawberry float for any student. Attendees were asked to write on a mug the name of a member of staff they wanted to thank for keeping them “afloat”.

A Hope Squad program is also active at Northmont High School, where Amanda Schroeder is a student aid counselor. This is the second year of the program at Northmont.

She has seen the program grow with the students who participate in it, she said. Members of Hope Squad are chosen using a method similar to that of Tippecanoe.

Schroeder said he’s seen students embrace the project, with some more open to advocating for mental health services and building more prevention services.

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“This has included promoting domestic violence resources, drug and alcohol resources, signs of suicide for all students, and the appropriate use of social media through the positiv.ly app and #ICANHELP” , she said.

Both Schroeder and Schmidt said they thought Hope Squad was paying off.

“As a student aid counselor in high school, I saw a number of students who were contemplating suicide be more open to talking to me or a member of Hope Squad for help. Our Hope Squad saves lives and I have seen it with my own eyes countless times over the past two years at Northmont,” Schroeder said.

“We are seeing positive results,” Schmidt said. “I think it definitely raised awareness about mental health and broke the stigma. Teachers ask about it,” she said. “I think students feel safer talking about it at school than before. At least I think we have a positive image.

More information about the Hope Squad program concept is available from the Grant Us Hope Foundation at grantushope.org.

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