TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Keeping students safe by building their strengths. That's the idea behind "Sources of Strength," a suicide prevention program working to provide mental health resources for students.
In the Twin Falls School District, the program is fairly new--only in its second year--but members are already working hard.
"We just started this program last year, so we only really had half or three quarters of the year," said Christi Benson, the advisor for the Twin Falls High School Sources of Strength.
The program takes a unique approach to suicide prevention. It starts with fostering strong relationships between students and trusted adults at school. From there, it's the kids who spread the message of inclusion and safety to their peers.
The target demographic is a vulnerable age group. A study from the Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio found suicide rates for children have been on the rise since 2007. In fact, rates are increasing at a double-digit rate for young girls, ages 10 to 14.
Peer leaders like Bailee Habel are students who are nominated by teachers to be part of the program. The teens open up about the heavy issues they are facing. Like depression, family and peer pressure, and even suicide.
"Even before, I was all about being there for my friends. I was always the person that they reached out to," Habel said. "We just need to look out for our friends. There is a lot of them that were struggling with isolation."
Idaho has still has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. Several schools across the state have adopted Sources of Strength to give mental health resources and education to some of our youngest who may be struggling.
A behind-the-scenes TikTok video of the Sources of Strength chapter at Mountain View High School, Idaho
It's especially important after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools this spring.
"We had a lot of students struggle with being isolated and at home--not being able to hang out with friends like they normally would or be at school," Benson said. "That's a big part of a student's life when they're young."
A huge part of the program is creating a safe culture at school and ending the stigma surrounding mental illness, but Benson says that will take time.
"I think stepping back and realizing it's going to take time for this culture change," Benson said. "It will get there if we're willing to stick with it."
Twin Falls High School's Sources of Strength program is already working on its first campaign. They're working to have each student write down on a feather-shaped piece of paper and adult they trust and why. From there, they'll create a huge pair of wings from the feathers.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please don't hesitate to reach out for help. Here's a list of resources:
Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Phone: (208) 398-4357
Veteran's Crisis Line:
Phone: 1 (800) 273-8255 (PRESS 1), or you can text: 838255 to get help from professionals, 24/7.
St. Luke's Psychiatric Wellness Clinic:
211 Idaho Careline:
Phone: Dial 211 or 1-800-926-2588
Code 4 Northwest:
Phone: (888) 659-7510
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare:
Phone lists: https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/ContactUs.aspx