Educators take proactive approach to suicide

Posted at 7:20 PM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 21:28:42-05

Twenty percent of the Gem state's high schoolers have seriously considered suicide in the last year with half of them actually attempting to take their own life, according to the 2015 Idaho Youth Risk Behavior survey.

The statistics have state leaders taking on a more proactive approach to combat this problem.

Before, educators were armed with a list of warning signs to watch for and employ when the red flags went up.

Now, through a grant-funded program called Sources of Strength, Idaho students are learning how to navigate through life with mentors and peers by their side.

Overall, the idea is to create a strong sense of community within each school chosen for this grant opportunity.

Homedale Middle School Counselor Brooke Winston applied for the grant. Her hope is that the program's implementation will build upon the positive environment they've been striving to create and to counter problems students may face in their day-to-day lives.

Winston knows that after the 4-day school week ends, there is opportunity for things like bullying and cyber-bullying, in particular, to take place.

"It's something that we can't stop but what we can do is provide our students with the tools to move through it and not let it be a part of who they are," Winston said.

A handful of adult advisors will be chosen. Then, they'll be teamed up with 30, or so, peer mentors who will come from all different groups and walks of life.

Once everyone is trained, the peer mentors will pass on their knowledge to others.

At some point, later on down the road, state department of education leaders are looking to expand the project to include more members of the community at large.

"We're really attempting to put forth a comprehensive program," said Matt McCarter, director of student engagement for the state. "The challenge is that we can't get everywhere as quickly as we'd like."

The message is that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and in identifying them, we can rely on them in even the darkest hours.

"When you feel beat down or that things are dark and there's no hope, what is it that enables us to build resilience and grit to get over the hard times," McCarter asked. "So, we have students identify for themselves what their strengths are and then have them ask, 'How can I be a source of strength to my peers,'"

Adult advisors are currently being lined up for the middle school's program. Once the peer mentors are chosen, a workshop will officially kick off this new program at the school in March.

Homedale Middle School is the only school in Western Idaho that was chosen to be a recipient of the program this year.

McCarter is looking for leaders of groups and organizations who are interested in partnering up to reach even more youth outside of school hours. He can be reached by dialing 208-332-6961 or by sending an e-mail to

For anyone contemplating hurting themselves, there is a 24-hour suicide hotline you can call: 1-800-273-TALK.