Mission & Vision
At Sources of Strength, our vision is To Empower a Well World. We provide exceptional training and curriculum for youth and adults, utilizing a strength-based and upstream approach to mental health promotion and prevention of adverse outcomes like suicide, violence, bullying, and substance misuse. Sources of Strength has a firm commitment to providing evidence-based programming that is responsive to local community context and needs.
Please email Jaymie Sheehan Carson [email protected] with any questions regarding our evidence-base or to receive PDF copies of journal articles.
Sources of Strength is a radically strength-based, upstream suicide prevention program with shown effectiveness in both preventative upstream and intervention outcomes. Sources of Strength has been evaluated through several large randomized control trials and is one of the most rigorously evaluated and broadly disseminated prevention programs in the United States. Sources of Strength is considered the first suicide prevention program to demonstrate effectiveness using Peer Leaders to enhance protective factors associated with reducing suicide across a school population. Sources of Strength teams are active across the United States, Canada, Australia, and many American Indian/Alaska Native and First Nations communities.
Sources of Strength has been listed on the National Best Practices Registry (BPR) by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) and The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) since 2009. Sources of Strength has also been listed on SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) since 2011. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2017 Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices, featured Sources of Strength as an evidence-based Peer Norm Program, stating:
Evaluations show that programs such as Sources of Strength can improve school norms and beliefs about suicide that are created and disseminated by student peers. In a randomized controlled trial of Sources of Strength conducted with 18 high schools (6 metropolitan, 12 rural), researchers found that the program improved adaptive norms regarding suicide, connectedness to adults, and school engagement. Peer leaders were also more likely than controls to refer a suicidal friend to an adult (emphasis added). For students, the program resulted in increased perceptions of adult support for suicidal youths, particularly among those with a history of suicidal ideation, and the acceptability of help-seeking behaviors. Finally, trained peer leaders also reported a greater decrease in maladaptive coping attitudes compared with untrained leaders.
The conclusion and designation of Sources of Strength as an evidence-based strategy has been promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and the National Institute for Mental Health.
Sources of Strength Elementary launched in 2020 and utilizes a universal classroom curriculum approach to bring the Sources of Strength protective factor framework to elementary schools. The curriculum is available for Kindergarten through 6th grade, making Sources of Strength one of the only programs to offer a shared framework for mental health promotion and adverse outcome prevention K-12.
Sources of Strength is committed to continuing research and has several research and funding partners located throughout the United States, Australia, and Canada.
Funding Partners include (but are not limited to):
Research Partners include (but are not limited to):
- Australian National University
- Johns Hopkins University
- Stanford University
- University of North Carolina
- University of Manitoba
- University of Montana
- University of Rochester
- Texas Tech University
Sources of Strength has a commitment to best practice evidence-based programming.
We are regularly involved in evaluation efforts with local partners, as well as ongoing Randomized Control Trials, and have focused efforts to publish and disseminate findings.
Pending publication includes additional outcome analyses and papers from the National Peer Leadership study and the RSVP2 study.
Pending research includes a study exploring student outcomes post high school and a Randomized Control Trial evaluating elementary outcomes, including the benefits of a culturally responsive framework.
Sources of Strength is one of the most evaluated and widely disseminated prevention programs in North America. This evidence base began with a partnership with national researchers out of the University of Rochester who observed young people as immensely powerful change agents within their natural peer relationships and believed that a peer component was necessary for effective prevention. The partnership with the University of Rochester produced data to demonstrate the positive impact of Sources on population-level health norms and landed Sources on SAMHSA's (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) NREPP list (National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices), the gold standard for Evidence-Based Programs and Practices. Research partners include:
Finding What's Right For You
We know there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to community public health and prevention efforts. We offer several pricing models and implementation strategies to meet your needs. We would love to meet with you and help walk you through options to co-create a plan specifically for your community.
Grant Writing Resources
If you are planning to write the Sources of Strength program into a grant and need help with the specific details of the program’s implementation, step-by-step rollout, evidence-based outcomes, cost structure, etc., then click on the Grant Writing Resources below. As always, feel free to connect with your staff for assistance in your grant proposal and budget.
Sources of Strength for middle and high school is designed as a tier 2 selected intervention with a tier 1 universal impact. Put more simply, Sources Secondary trains groups of Peer Leaders supported by Adult Advisors to run ongoing public health messaging campaigns to increase wellness and decrease risk in their schools.
Rather than training selected Peer Leaders, Sources Elementary is implemented as a universal classroom based Social Emotional Learning curriculum. The model incorporates the Sources of Strength protective factor framework, more robust language on mental health, and a prevention lens that many elementary SEL models lack.
The Train the Trainer process support secondary implementation.
The Coaches Training process supports elementary implementation.
Awareness and Buy-In – This often includes training of a community/coalition on Sources of Strength, obtaining key administrative support, and conducting a brief protocol review of handling distressed/suicidal students.
Identify and train Adult Advisors – Identify 2-5 adult advisors that will mentor a peer leader team. Train Adult Advisors in the Sources of Strength process of Peer Leader recruitment and their role in meeting and guiding peer teams during the action step phase. Adult Advisors are a mix of school staff and community adults – school counselors, teachers, youth workers, spiritual leaders, friendly aunties – that have high relational connectivity with students.
Recruit and Train Peer Leaders – Peer Leader teams are often between 10-50 students in size. The initial Peer Leader training is provided by a certified Sources of Strength trainer in a highly interactive, 3-4 hour training. It is mandatory that the local Adult Advisors participate in the peer leader training.
Peer-to-Peer Messaging – After the initial training, the Peer Leaders and Adult Advisors begin conversations with other Trusted Adults and their 5-10 closest friends and work to create a wide range of Hope, Help, Strength messaging activities targeting a wider and diverse peer group. Sources of Strength provides a recommended step-by-step guide of Peer Leader activities, but teams are able to adjust based on their readiness level and perception of what will work best in their setting.
Ongoing Meetings and Campaigns – A pattern of meeting together, planning, problem solving, then going out and activating a variety of strategies is used in all settings. Some teams meet as often as once a week, while others meet less frequently, but all teams are encouraged to complete several of the recommended strategies and use Hope, Help, Strength messaging rather than shocking, traumatic, or sad messaging approaches. Sources of Strength assists students with connecting with adults and their friendship groups. Peer teams are encouraged to share their creative efforts with other teams across the country via the Sources of Strength website and social media accounts. We encourage all Adult Advisors to provide honoring and recognition events for their Peer Leader teams.
Ongoing Support and Technical Assistance – Sources of Strength staff are always available to help with troubleshooting.
We encourage an Adult Advisor team that shares responsibility, rather than one Adult Advisor who does a majority of the work. It is really important to have strong communication and collaboration between the Adult Advisor team. Consider the best way to communicate with them and update each other. Is that a Slack channel? An email chain? Owl message delivery? It can be great to have a standing meeting amongst your Adult Advisor team to chat about planning, problem solving, and role sharing. Try to divvy up the load so multiple Adult Advisors are responsible for a portion of a meeting or campaign.
The Sources of Strength Train the Trainer (T4T) model can also increase sustainability. Once a Provisional Trainer becomes Certified Local Trainer, the cost of the program drops from $5,000 per school to $500 annually for returning schools and $750 for new schools.
Our work is centered around collaboration with other programs and community initiatives. Sources of Strength is designed to be customized, so schools may add it into other prevention, leadership, diversity, academic, spirituality, and community programs, and more. We work better together!
Yes, in fact it is encouraged! This kind of collaboration can broaden the impact of your peer-led efforts and bolster the Sources message with other schools, groups, or initiatives, fostering shared language and common vision for health and well-being in the community.
Sources of Strength is one of the national leaders in recruiting, engaging, retaining, and successfully using Peer Leaders to engage other students. An essential element of the program is the effective recruitment and training of Adult Advisors who display connectivity, care, and positivity with the students. The program provides not only the initial training, but also ongoing consultation designed to support Peer Leaders and Adult Advisors. Recruiting and supporting the right Adult Advisors is critical for engaging students.
Recruiting diverse Peer Leaders from a wide variety of social cliques and groups is an essential element in achieving the widespread social network impact that is core to the Sources of Strength model. The program is grounded in an interactive learning model, in which a “fun factor” plays an essential part of student engagement. Sources of Strength demonstrates a wide range of games that can be incorporated into presentations and messaging campaigns. Making use of students’ music, art, interests, drama, social media, etc., adds to the engagement of other students. Peer input and ownership is also essential; while formatted campaigns are available, they are often adapted to fit the culture, tone, style, and opportunities available in the individual schools.
Sources of Strength provides a great opportunity to help teachers and staff see their role as connectors for students who may be struggling, in emotional distress, or be suicidal. Staff should be clear on the strategy of starting with mental health or medical referrals, but also getting numerous strengths around a suicidal student. The Sources of Strength Wheel is often incorporated into the staff culture and used in student assistance meetings regarding various different issues. Functioning as a workplace wellness model, Sources of Strength has been very effective in helping highly stressed staff identify and access specific resources and strengths around them. Rather than being viewed as “just another program,” many staff members comment that their Sources of Strength staff training is personally helpful for them and that the content can be easily incorporated into their daily lives. Schools can also consider implementing an All Staff training to increase staff skills as trusted adults for students (having a trusted adult is a strong protective factor for preventing suicide and many other risk factors) and create strategies to integrate strength-focused content into classrooms, in communication with students, and within their own personal lives.
Meet Our Team