Highlighting the Idaho Lives Project

Last month, Kim Kane and Judy Gabert, two of our partners with the Idaho Lives Project were facilitating a community meeting in Caldwell, Idaho. With more than 50 community leaders in the room, a father, a local finance manager, stood up to introduce himself but was quickly flooded with emotion, unable to speak. He paused, composed himself, and through tears declared, “That program at Caldwell High just saved my son’s life.”     

A peer leader from Sources of Strength at Caldwell connected this man’s son to a trusted adult. Willing to break the silence, they helped their friend get the support he needed, and a life was saved. Friends help friends get help.

The Idaho Lives Project (ILP) is engaged in a statewide effort to implement Sources of Strength in middle schools and high schools across Idaho. ILP is reporting story after story of peer leaders and adult advisors partnering to spread a message of hope, health and strength in their communities.

While visiting Eagle Academy this past fall, Kim Kane heard a similar story from a school counselor. One of the peer leaders in the school had been experiencing suicidal ideation, and their peer leader team responded quickly by connecting the student to a trusted adult. The school counselor was invited into the situation and intervened, offering the necessary support and mental health services to the struggling student.  

After hosting a mini Sources of Strength training at a Juvenile Justice center in Idaho, the director of the center emailed the Idaho Lives Project reporting that the training and the program had helped to save the life of a suicidal juvenile, who was now receiving help and support. They also shared the inspiring story of one young man who stood up at the end of the training and demanded to know why no one had told him that he had strengths. What’s more, this young man expressed hope and confidence that he could now make it outside, knowing he has other strengths to draw on even without family support.

The Idaho Lives Project has also shared stories of the program’s impact in postvention situations, where after the (non-suicide) death of a student at Eagle Academy last spring (2015), the peer leader team mobilized into action. The counselor at the school reported that her peer leaders, who had already shared the wheel within classrooms, went around  reminding staff and students to tap into and use their strengths when struggling with the loss of this friend and fellow classmate. Many teachers reported being impacted by the efforts of these peer leaders (having known the deceased for four years), and the counselor said that the staff and students communicated they were helped by the strength-based messaging of the school’s Sources of Strength team.  

These, and many other stories have added meaning and significance to the work of the Idaho Lives Project and their team. The hours of planning, tirelessly chasing down funding, traveling, training, supporting adult advisors, peer leaders, and trainers, collecting data, and writing and rewriting new grant proposals to keep the program going for many years to come has been invaluable to these individual students and to the communities at large.

The Idaho Lives Project, a partnership between the Idaho State Department of Education (ISDE) and the Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho (SPAN Idaho), has been doing great work over the past few years to roll out Sources of Strength on a statewide level. In the third year of implementation, having trained and sustained four cohorts of schools, they are now gearing up to train the fifth cohort to receive the Sources of Strength program. To date they have implemented the program in 30 schools (High Schools and Middle Schools), offering training to 177 Adult Advisors and 941 peer leaders, throughout 15 of Idaho’s 44 counties. On top of offering Sources of Strength training to these schools, the Idaho Lives Project has offered gatekeeper training to 1222 staff members, as well as to numerous members of the surrounding communities. All of this is part of a comprehensive statewide initiative to prevent suicide; offering gatekeeper training to Adults, upstream prevention training to youth, young adults, and adult advisors, as well as best practice suicide prevention and mental health aftercare training for clinicians.

Working toward long term sustainability, the Idaho Lives Project hosted a four day Sources of Strength Train the Trainer (T4T) Skills Session event in 2014. During this T4T, 19 local and regional trainers from schools and mental health services across the state were equipped to sustain local schools with ongoing Sources of Strength training. These efforts were funded by the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Suicide Prevention Grant. Coming to the end of this Grant, the Idaho Lives Project is currently tracking down further funding at the state and federal level, hoping to expand their implementation of Sources of Strength alongside other initiatives.

As with any large scale implementation, there have been some successes and some challenges. Some of the most challenging barriers to the success of the program have been due to: 1) high staff turnover resulting in the loss of key adult advisors; 2) school staff and administrators’ attitudes about mental well-being and commitment to the program, resulting in difficulty finding times for peer leaders to meet and plan (not wanting to use class time); 3) more schools in need than the program is able to fund; and 4) finding and training the right advisors who are committed and have the appropriate skill sets and passion for the program. Despite these challenges, the program continues to celebrate the 26 out of their 30 schools that continue to have flourishing Sources of Strength programs.

We offer this story of the Idaho Lives Project as an example of the great work that teams are doing across the country and as a specific example of what it looks like to roll out a coordinated statewide effort to prevent suicide by teaching  students, their schools, and communities how to develop the strength and resilience to overcome difficulty and live strong and meaningful lives.


Sources of Strength Week


Sources of Strength Week

The Sources of Strength Week is designed to engage your school or community in a fun way with Sources of Strength and to get students and staff, talking about, engaging in, and developing their strengths and connections to others. Be creative in planning a Sources of Strength week that fits your school, community and culture. 

A typical Sources of Strength week will assign a strength to each day of the week: either choosing five of the eight strengths, assigning two strengths for three days of the week, or running the campaign over the course of two weeks.

Each day will focus on one of the strengths, in a variety of fun and engaging ways. You can use games, classroom presentations, photo booths, sidewalk chalk, art, posters, videos, school-wide activities, small group discussions, wall displays, social media posts and challenges, school announcements, etc. The possibilities are endless!

Tips for Preparation

  • Planning: Use one to two of your Peer Leader meetings to strategically plan and prepare for a Sources of Strength Week. Brainstorm all the activities you want to do and partnerships with other groups that you can use. Break Adult Advisors and Peer Leaders up into smaller groups to work on specific topics or activities. As you are planning, think about ways to engage as many students and staff as possible. 
  • Partnering with other groups, clubs, sports teams, activities, planning committees, and outside prevention agencies, can help you achieve the broadest reach and impact of the campaign. 

Some examples of ways to partner with other groups in your community:

    • If there is a video club at your school, invite them to help make Sources of Strength Week videos. There could be a promo video to get students excited about the week, as well as a video documenting the events of the week and the fun activities.
    • If there is a graphic design class, invite these students to participate in making posters with local faces and Sources of Strength messaging.
    • If there is a photography class, invite them to document the events of the week and help create great visual content for posters, social media posts, yearbook or school newspaper articles.
    • If you have a school newspaper, invite a few of their journalist to report on the run up to, as well as the events of the week, highlight hope, help, and strength. They can also detail resources and supports that are highlighted during the week.
    • Involve all the sports teams and clubs in a Healthy Activities day, highlighting the numerous healthy activities that are available in your school or community.  
    • Invite the Counselling, Mental Health staff, and psychology class(es) to participate in a Mental Health day, leading students in positive mental health practices and highlighting and connecting students and staff to mental health supports and resources that exist in your local community.
    • Connect with local service organizations that serve your community or school and invite them to participate in and support your Generosity day. Connect to and highlight existing efforts of generosity that are practiced in your school or community.
    • Engage your local newspaper agencies and invite them to write about and highlight the efforts of your Peer Leader team and the events of the week.
    • Engage local agencies that work with families and can help offer resources, content, and support for a Family Support day.
  • Fun: It is essential to ensure that the Sources of Strength Week is fun, engaging, and remains focused on Hope, Help, and Strength. We do this by coming up with relevant ways to infuse games and a general sense of playfulness and festivity into every activity that we do. Avoid making activities or presentations too serious or long, or ever slipping into lecture or one-way presentation mode. Instead, engage students and staff in dialogue and discussion, always ensuring that  your activities, social media posts, or challenges are pointed toward strength and help to highlight connection and resiliency. If done right, a Sources of Strength Week can quickly become the highlight of the school year calendar.   

Watch this video to hear about Sources of Strength Week from other Peer Leader Groups


We want to see what you come up with! Tag Sources of Strength in your social media posts so we can check out all of your great activities. Use the hashtags #sourcesofstrength and #sourcesweek

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Getting the word out


Now that you have completed Sources of Strength Peer Leader training, it’s time to start sharing Sources of Strength with the rest of your school and community. In your first planning meetings, your team should brainstorm ways to introduce Sources of Strength to your school. This can include:

Introducing your team
Introducing people to the strengths on the wheel. Be creative. Photo booths, videos, large art installations or wall displays, classroom presentations, and social media are fun ways to share the strengths with your community. 
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Create a Sources of Strength social media page for your school. Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Name it SourcesofStrengh_YourSchoolsName or YourSchoolNameStrength. Pick a few Peer Leaders and Adult Advisors to be in charge of running the account. 
Announcements about Sources and the strengths
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An I Am Stronger Campaign is also a good way to share stories of strength and help students and staff reflect on their own strengths

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Thankfulness Challenge


Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can have a huge impact on your life. The actual physical makeup of the brain changes and makes people more positive, joyful and content. One way to do this is as simple as writing down or journaling about 3 things you are thankful for every day for 21 days. A fun activity your Sources of Strength team can sponsor is a Thankfulness Campaign.

You can use our Thankfulness Journals, our Thankfulness Posters or create your own way to spread messages of gratitude in your school or community.

Watch this video for ideas to get started.


Social Media: Everyday for 21 days, post 1 thing you are thankful for and hashtag #thankfulnesschallenge and #sourcesofstrength. You can also take photos of people with their Thankfulness posters and share them on your school’s Sources of Strength account.


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Videos: Create a short video with as many people as possible naming things they are thankful for. Watch this video for tips on how to make a great video. 



Hallway Displays: Have as many students and staff as possible fill out Thankfulness posters. Use these posters to create a large wall display. Take a photo of your display and post it on your school’s Sources of Strength social media accounts. 

School-wide Activities: Brainstorm activities you can do to share messages of gratitude in your school. Use these activities as opportunities to pass out Thankfulness Posters and Thankfulness Journals. Collect the posters to use in a large wall display. Encourage students and staff to use the journals for a 21 day Thankfulness Challenge.


What Helps Me Campaign


The What Helps Me Campaign is a powerful way to share stories of strengths in your community. This campaign focuses people’s personal stories of what strengths help them when dealing with the big three emotions – anger, anxiety/worry, and depression or feeling sad or down. Everyone struggles with at least one of these emotions. This campaign is about identifying which emotions you wrestle with the most and which strengths help you through it.



 Watch this video for ideas on how to get started with a What Helps Me Campaign

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What gives this campaign power is if everyone in the school can get involved in a small group discussion, or a writing, art or video project. Getting everyone thinking about what are the things that help them with their emotions. Everyone wrestles with these emotions, and we want you to focus on collecting stories of help and strength. Here are some ideas of how to do that:

Video Project:

  • Get a number of the Peer Leaders and Adult Advisors to state “What Helps Me with ________ (emotion) is _________ (strength) and _________ (strength) and _________ (strength). Example: What helps me when I get too anxious or worried is playing my guitar, talking to my mom, and going for a run. Stories can be this simple or more detailed, as long as they remain strength focused and hopeful.
  • Link several of these video’s together (make sure to include adults), place some still pictures in the middle, layout some popular strength-based music in the background, and create a video.
  • See Sources of Strength website videos for instructions on how to make a video and for an example of a What Helps Me video.
  • This video can then be shown schoolwide, on social media, or as an introduction to a class or small group discussion.

School Newspaper,  Announcements & Social Media: Peer Leaders can write or interview others (students and adults) about the strengths that have helped them manage emotions. These stories can be posted in the school newspaper or shared over morning announcements. This will be used in promoting the activity schoolwide. These stories can also be shared on social media on your school’s Sources of Strength accounts. Post these stories and hashtag #sourcesofstrength and #whathelpsme. Have all the peer leaders to post their stories on their own accounts. Then encourage your friends to post their stories. Soon you will have created a social network filled with stories of strength. 

Small Group Discussions: During a classroom presentation, Peer Leaders and Adult Advisors can first share a few of their own What Helps Me stories. Be sure to practice with your Peer Leader group before presenting to a class. (For tips on giving presentations, watch this video) After you share your stories, pass out What Helps Me cards and ask the students to write their own stories of strength. Then divide into small groups and have everyone share what helps them when dealing with difficult emotions. You can use the Sources of Strength What Helps Me cards or design your own. It’s a good idea to have a large Sources of Strength wheel projected onto a screen, drawn on the whiteboard, or displayed on a poster to help students name which strengths help them.  

Wall Display: Create a wall display highlighting the stories, art, etc… that have been created throughout the course of the campaign, detailing ways students and staff have found help for regulating their emotions in healthy ways. Be creative. Take a photo of your finished display and post it on your school’s Sources of Strength social media accounts. 

Class Assignments: Teachers can get involved by incorporating the What Helps Me campaign into specific assignments. English teachers have given writing assignments interpreting strengths that might have helped literary characters manage difficult emotions or essay assignments asking students to tell their stories – What Helps Me with…. anger, anxiety, or depression… is…. Art teachers have assigned art projects that communicate the What Helps Me philosophy. Psychology teachers have assigned emotional regulation research and projects.    


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Trusted Adult Campaign


In your Peer Leader Training, you named adults in your community who you would go to for help if you or a friend were struggling. Be sure to deliver your Thank You cards to them and tell them that you appreciate them. 

Now your challenge is to involve the rest of your school. We want you to get at least 80% of students in your school to name their Trusted Adults and to display these names in a large, visual Wall of Trust. 

Here are some ideas to help you get started. 


As you are planning this campaign, think about what you want your final Wall of Trust display to look like. A tree, a pyramid, a mural, circles, rainbow, photos + names, . Once you pick an idea, get crafty and make your cards, bricks, leafs, triangles, circles, etc. Make sure you have enough cards for at least 80% of students to write at least one name each. Here are some examples from other Peer Leader teams. 


Also think about where the Wall of Trust will be displayed. Work with your Adult Advisors to find a large area in a prominent location so everyone can see it. 

Then work with your Peer Leader team to decide how you will gather the names. Here are some ideas for talking to other students about Trusted Adults and collecting names from them:

Cafeteria Contacts: A team of Peer Leaders can set up a table in the cafeteria or commons and hand out ‘trusted adult cards or ‘Post-Its’, asking students to write down their own name and the name of an adult they could go to about a problem (Trusted Adult). Give them a card to fill out with their name and their Trusted Adult’s name that you can add to a wall display. Have students place these cards or ‘Post-Its’ on a poster in the lunchroom. These cards or ‘Post-Its’ can then be transferred to a hallway mural or larger display for the whole school. Also give them a postcard, which they can give to their trusted adult that says, “Thank you for being a source of strength in my life.” On the back of the postcard they can write some personal words of thanks to their Trusted Adult. 

‘Tagging’ Students: A fun way that you as Peer Leaders can get other students talking about trusted adults is to go into the hallways and tag 5-10 of your friends by putting a sticker on them. You can make stickers or use Sources of Strength stickers. Tell them “You’ve been tagged – Sources of Strength” or “ You’ve been chosen – Sources of Strength” – and then give them directions to go to a specific location (room 101, the table set up in the commons, etc.)  for a mystery prize or mystery game. When the student arrives in the room, they are meet by Adult Advisors and Peer Leaders, given a prize (bottle of water, cookie, wristband, etc…) or engaged in a quick fun activity or game, and asked to name a trusted adult. Once the student writes this name down on a card, ‘Post-It,’ paper leaf, paper brick, etc…  they will then be given a sticker to go out and tag 1 or 2 of their own friends in the school. Be sure to also give them a Thank You postcard to share with their Trusted Adult. 

Classroom Presentation: As Peer Leaders you can plan a classroom presentation, in which you talk about Sources of Strength, share stories of your mentors/trusted adults, and then pass out cards and have the students fill out who their mentors/trusted adults are. Go around the room and have the whole class share the names of their trusted adults out loud. You can also write all the names on the whiteboard. Collect the cards to be used in your hallway display and be sure to give every student a  Thank You postcard to give to their mentors/trusted adults as well. 

Once you have collected all the names, build your Wall of Trust in a prominent location in the school. Take a photo of it and share on your team’s social media account and #sourcesofstrength.


As you are collecting names and handing out postcards, you can also encourage students to take a photo with their Trusted Adult and post it on social media tagging #sourcesofstrength and #trustedadult. 

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In addition to creating the Wall of Trust, you can also promote the campaign and spread the word about Sources of Strength and Trusted Adults through other outlets in your community. 

Video Project: Create a brief video where several Peer Leaders name different trusted adults both in the school and out of the school and give short stories about how they have been a strength in their lives. This video can be shown in the school or sent out via social media. 

Social Media: Create a Trusted Adult social media campaign. Start with your peer leader team. Have each Peer Leader post a photo with their Trusted Adult, explain why they are a source of strength in their life and #sourcesofstrength and #trustedadult. Encourage the whole school to post their own photos and stories. 

Newspaper Stories: Write about your  trusted adults and how they have been a strength for you in the school newspaper or community paper. This can help promote the school-wide activities your peer leader team is doing to collect names from other students.

School Announcements: Peer Leaders can also plan for a school announcement series of trusted adults stories – “this is Thank Your Mentor-Trusted Adult week and over the course of the week we will be sharing stories of Mentors/Adults who have been a strength for us and made a positive impact in our lives” – and then have three to four Peer Leaders talk about their trusted adults over the announcements every morning.

Be creative. Have fun. Involve the whole school. Let us know how it goes by sharing on social media or e-mailing media@sourcesofstrength. 

I am Stronger Campaign


The I am Stronger Campaign focuses on strengths that you have increased in the last year. This campaign spreads the idea that the strengths on the wheel are not static. Just because one area on the wheel isn’t strong for you now, doesn’t mean you can’t strengthen it in the future. You are not stuck. You can grow stronger in each area of the wheel. The I Am Stronger Campaign is about collecting stories of strength from your community and sharing them through photos, videos, wall displays and social media. 


What gives this campaign power is if everyone in the school can get involved in  a writing, art or video project or small group discussion. These activities get everyone thinking about their strengths and the ways that they have grown stronger in these areas.  We want people to know they can grow in certain areas by working on new practices or activities that help develop these strengths. Likewise, we can help our school or community grow and develop these strengths by highlighting how others have gotten stronger.

Click here for a video about creating an I am Stronger campaign:

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Here are some tips to help you create a successful I am Stronger campaign in your school or community.

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Videos: Click here to watch an example of an I Am Stronger Video:



Hallway Displays You can make I am Stronger cards, take photos of students and adults, and create a wall display using the photos and stories of strength. 

 I am Stronger photo montage

School Newspaper & Announcements: Peer Leaders can write or interview others (students and adults) about areas they have grown stronger in. These stories can be posted in the school newspaper or shared over morning announcements. If the campaign is run over the course of a week, there could be one or two stories every morning. I Am Stronger stories can also be posted on bulletin boards.

Small Group Discussions: During a classroom presentation, Peer Leaders and Adult Advisors can first share a few of their own I Am Stronger stories. Then other students can be invited to share their stories of strengths in small groups. You can use the Sources of Strength I Am Stronger cards or design your own. The Sources of Strength Wheel can be projected onto a screen, drawn on the whiteboard, or displayed on a poster to help other students identify strengths that have become stronger in their lives.  

Social Media: You can also spread this campaign on social media by encouraging people to share their stories of strength and hashtag #IamStronger and #SourcesofStrength



Click here to download these I am Stronger cards



Sources of Strength Train the Trainer

Throughout 2015 Sources of Strength has continued to grow and expand. This is our seventh year of Training For Trainers/Advanced Coordinators across the US and Canada. These trainings are multi day sessions that teach local trainers how to implement the Sources of Strength program with fidelity to our best practice/evidence based standards.  This past spring we provided T4T’s sessions in Winnipeg, Ottawa, and New Jersey.  

Check out these photo’s from our Summer 2015 T4T/Advanced Coordinator sessions in Denver, Savannah, White Mountain Apache Arizona, and Fairbanks (Tanana Chiefs Conference).  Participants came from middle and high schools, colleges and universities, mental health and community programs, faith based and recreation-based programs all focused on expanding Sources of Strength. Our participants represented an incredible diversity of cultures and brought great spirit and skills to our efforts. We played lots of games, learned from our community partners about what is working in their areas, practiced and honed our training and facilitation skills, and were continually inspired and encouraged by the incredible people we get that privilege of partnering with across the world. 

We are excited about our expanding work with Latino/Hispanic communities, LGTBQ outreach, start of French-Canadian efforts and translations, faith-based efforts, school, village, urban, and of course with our ever expanding efforts in Native American, Alaskan, and Canada 1st Nation communities.  This Fall/Winter we’ll provide T4T’s with the California based United Indian Health, as well as Australia (Black Dog Institute) and New Zealand.  
It wouldn’t be Sources of Strength without laughter, fun, and learning that games aren’t
just games, but strategic and purposeful. 


A Key T4T component is to help make our trainers AUTHENTIC, by applying and using the strengths in their personal lives. 


Time is spent on teaching theory, method, and research behind the curriculum as well as the power of
positive norming in our peer messaging and how we use social network connections to spread Hope, Help, and Strength.  Trainers develop a deeper understanding the curriculum, intent of each module, and the why and purpose of the sequencing. 
Exciting things are happening at Sources of Strength as our great partners spread an Upstream prevention model that lights up their corners of the world.  

Sources of Strength adventures in Alaska

We recently returned from a 2-week trip to Alaska, training in Fairbanks with Tanana Chiefs and traveling to Fort Yukon and Venetie to work with peer leader teams and adult advisors in those villages. We were fortunate enough to be able to travel between the villages by boat on the Yukon and Chandalar Rivers. It was an amazing opportunity to be on the river and experience the beauty of the landscape. 


Here are some photos from our journey:

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Flying into Fairbanks


 Alaska T4T

Lots of games and lots of laughs at our training in Fairbanks. Such an honor to work with this amazing group of people and hear their stories of the great work they are doing. 

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Marianne Young, Doreen David, Katrina Gibson and Rowena Sam shared the work their peer leader teams have been doing in the villages of Tetlin, Huslia, Minto and Northway. Sources of Strength peer leader teams have woven Sources of Strength messages into anti-bullying campaigns, peer leader led water safety classes for younger kids, doing generosity activities like baking for elders in the community, swim parties, picnics, sledding, teaching cultural skills like drying meat, snowshoeing, fire building, berry picking and fishing. These adult leaders have been working with youth and adults in their communities to build positive relationships between teens and trusted adults  and to reduce bullying and suicide rates. 





We also had an opportunity to do a fun photo shoot in Fairbanks:



Then we were off …

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Flying to Fort Yukon 

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 Buddy/Constance Sources of Strength Alaska Tanana Chiefs youth suicide prevention 

Buddy our fearless boat driver and Constance our guide from Tanana Chiefs. 


Where the Yukon (brown) and Chandalar (green) Rivers meet. 


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We brought our media team to capture the journey and create images with peer leaders in the villages. 


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Peer leaders in Venetie write and draw the strengths in their lives. 

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Meeting with elders and adult advisors in Venetie. Special thanks to Myra Thumma for organizing the adult meeting as well as the peer leaders, for cooking for everyone and for taking great care of us while we were in Venetie!






Sources + CDPHE = Powerful Prevention in Colorado

Sources of Strength pilot program works “upstream” in seven schools to prevent the need for youth suicide intervention

By Jan Stapleman | Office of Communications
It’s an overused adjective, but well-earned by the Sources of Strength youth suicide-prevention program. It also applies to the way the program is being piloted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in seven middle and high schools across the state over the next two years.
Most youth suicide-prevention programs are designed to identify kids who are at risk of suicide and launch an intervention. In contrast, Sources of Strength works “upstream” to build a support system of connections to schools and caring adults that helps protect kids from needing such interventions. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Colorado children ages 10 to 17.
Research shows the program’s protective factors are effective against a range of problems, which is why the program is being piloted in an unusual way in Colorado, supported partially by CDC funds designated for rape prevention and education. 
“We know school connectedness is protective for suicide, sexual violence, substance abuse, bullying and more,” said Jarrod Hindman, director of the Office of Suicide Prevention. “It was unique and cool and innovative for the CDC to fund something that works across programs like this.”
The CDC funding, $70,000 over two years, will pay for implementing and supporting the program in the seven pilot schools: two in Adams County; one in Trinidad; and one each in Boulder, Denver, El Paso and Fremont counties. State funding from the Child Fatality Prevention System and the Office of Suicide Prevention paid for “train-the-trainer” sessions for personnel from the pilot schools and other Colorado schools that have local funding to pay for implementation. Having certified trainers in the schools significantly reduces the cost of implementation and can improve the program’s sustainability.
At the June 23-26 training, Sources of Strength founder Mark LoMurray led the Colorado educators, along with school counselors, local public health staffers and community youth group leaders from various states, through games they will use to prepare adult advisers and student leaders for their roles. The games, and the program, are designed to help teens identify and connect with their own sources of strength from eight possible realms: family support, positive friends, mentors, healthy activities, generosity, spirituality, medical access and mental health. LoMurray demonstrated a light and fun approach, using the games to introduce a quick lesson, not a heavy moral imperative.
“We ask our mental health professionals to scrub that mental health language,” he said. “We use teen language here.”
Participants took turns leading the games in small groups. They practiced asking questions and summarizing lessons learned in a quick, light-hearted way, then evaluated their success. LoMurray’s son Scott, who has taken up the mantle of his father’s work as deputy director of the program, helped lead the small group practice sessions. This fall, he and other Sources of Strength personnel will go into Colorado schools and help the newly trained participants implement the program.
Mark LoMurray developed the program over his 40-year career as a social worker working with teens and young adults in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. In 2009, Sources of Strength was listed on the National Best Practices Registry by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In 2011, the program gained listing on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. The program was the subject of one of the nation’s largest studies on peer leaders and their impact in suicide prevention, with results published in 2010 in the American Journal of Public Health. Among other results, the study found:
  • Peer leaders’ connectedness to adults increased.
  • Peer leaders’ school engagement increased.
  • Peer leaders in larger schools were four times more likely to refer a suicidal friend to an adult.
“We will be the first to evaluate the program for sexual violence outcomes,” said Tomei Kuehl, supervisor of the Sexual Violence Prevention Unit. “This is all about taking an innovative approach to work across programs.”
“We used our partnerships at the local level to recruit schools for the pilot,” explained Colleen Kapsimalis, unit supervisor of the Child Fatality Prevention System. Kapsimalis said connections with the state’s local child fatality prevention teams helped identify interested schools. One of three recommendations made in the 2015 Colorado Child Fatality Prevention System Annual Legislative Report, to prevent youth suicide, is “expand implementation and evaluation of school-based suicide-prevention programs that promote resilience and positive youth development as protective factors from suicide statewide.”
Hindman said Sources of Strength is a priority for his office. “There are a lot of good programs out there designed to identify kids at risk and intervene,” he said. “But Sources of Strength builds a support system to prevent kids from getting to that point. Our hope is that five years down the road Sources of Strength will be in 100 Colorado schools.”