Widefield schools see success with suicide prevention program
Last updated 2/23/2021 at 12:45pm | View PDF
Widefield School District 3 (WSD3) is using a new program, Sources of Strength, to prevent suicide, bullying and substance abuse. Initially developed in 1998, Sources of Strength’s founder Mark LoMurray worked with rural communities and Northern Plains Tribes in North Dakota to create the program. It is now used in over 14 states, and has been recognized by groups like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the American Association of Public Health.
WSD3 initially brought the program to Mesa Ridge High School and Janitell Junior High School in 2019 as “pilot cases.” Marta Schmuki, one of the counselors at Mesa Ridge, described the program’s particular focus.
”Overall the program was created to help students connect with strengths they have in their life and form a greater bond within our school community,” she said. “Going forward from there, the likelihood that they reach out to someone that can help them when they are struggling with thoughts of suicide is much higher.”
Erin Murphy, one of the counselors at Janitell Junior High School, said that the program has made a big difference in student involvement, with various students getting involved in lunch activities and assembly events to discuss Sources of Strength. Murphy also described how Janitell uses peer leaders who take part in monthly meetings where they consider how to practice one of the program’s key values during the next month (such as “Mentor March”).
“I think it has definitely met the needs of our students when they are feeling very stressed and overwhelmed,” she said. “It helps our entire student body, but more importantly our peer leaders, to really focus on their strengths and what they can use to get them through the tough times.”
Schmuki and Murphy both admitted that COVID made it more of a challenge to promote Sources of Strength in 2020.
“I think [this last year] it has helped with our peer leaders, because they’re a bit more entrenched in what Sources of Strength is all about,” Murphy said. “The obstacle that we have kind of come across is that because we’re not able to have in-person meetings and things like that, we’ve had to rely a lot on the virtual platforms, and these kids are all checked out by the end of the day, they don’t want to spend any more time on the computer. Trying to reenergize them this semester is really our goal.”
Despite this challenge, Murphy and Schmuki both said the program continues to have a positive effect on the school.
“The impact in the short amount of time we have had in person together has been great,” Schmuki said. “I have seen leaders emerging from the group members and felt the resilience in the school grow.”
Sources of Strength has now been added to at least three other WSD3 schools (Grand Mountain School, Watson Junior High and Sproul Junior High), and there are hopes for more schools to join up in the future. To find out more about Sources of Strength, check out the organization’s website (sourcesofstrength.org) or the Mesa Ridge and Janitell web pages for students (mrhs.wsd3.org/activities/sources-of-strength) (janitell.wsd3.org/activities/sources-of-strength).