Sources of Strength attempts to have a diverse group of peer leaders positively impact a wide range of cliques within a school or community. Often during a first year start-up, teachers or adult staff will nominate a diversity of students that they feel would fit this role. This process is usually approved by a school administrator (see nomination forms).  In a second year program the new recruitment and nomination process is often led by the peer leaders from the previous year. Students are actively recruited through group informational meetings, one-on-one conversation and by using peers to encourage uncommitted students. While suicide prevention is a significant part of the training, we generally highlight that the training will focus on strengths and fun activities. Students are usually extremely positive about the training, stating it was “not what I expected,” “interesting,” “fun,” and “empowering.” Even students who have lost friends and family to suicide generally do not experience the training as a “down” or “depressing” experience.


  • Awareness and Buy-In –  This often includes training of acommunity/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 in peer leader recruitment and their role in meeting and guiding peer teams during the action step phase. Adult advisors can be school counselors, teachers, youth workers, pastors/spiritual leaders, friendly aunties and often are a mix of school staff and community adults 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 3-4 hour highly interactive training process. It is mandatory that the local adult advisors participate in the peer leader training.

  • Peer to Peer Contacts and Messaging – After the initial training the peer leaders and adult advisors begin a 3-6 month series of conversations with other trusted adults and their 5-10 closest friends as well as 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.

  • A pattern of meeting together, planning, problem solving, and then going out and activating a variety of strategies is used in all settings.  Some teams meet as often as once a week, others less frequently, but all peer teams are encouraged to complete several of the recommended strategies and use Hope, Help, Strength messaging rather than shock, trauma, or sad messaging.  Sources of Strength templates and resources assist with peers connecting with adults and their friendship groups. These templates include examples of local faces posters, local voices audio, videos, presentations, skits, text forwarding and internet social networking message. Peer teams are encouraged and expected to share their creative efforts with other teams across the country via Sources of Strength webpages, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Every group is required to provide honoring and recognition events for the peer leader team.

  • Ongoing Support and Technical Assistance – Sources of Strength staff provides monthly teleconference support as well as planning materials and resources for each step of the way.


Sources of Strength is an ongoing comprehensive wellness program. It is not a one-time training event.  Costs include front end support for stakeholder buy in,  a day of training for adult advisors, four-five hour training for each peer leader team, ongoing support for teams, web based resources, print materials and template resources.

  • Base level costs are $5,000 per school/team. Additional components, such as community and parent trainings may be an additional cost. Complete a start-up questionnaire and contact info@sourcesofstrength.org for a more specific quote for your region.  

  • A Sources of Strength grant writing packet is available for local projects to cut and paste and insert into their local funding or grant proposals in efforts to obtain funding for local Sources of Strength.

  • Sources of Strength is committed to providing the highest quality prevention program at the lowest cost possible – we occasionally have scholarships available and will try to assist groups and communities in whatever way we can. We never want cost to be the barrier in bringing Sources of Strength to a community. 

  • Sources of Strength has participated in one of the nation’s largest rigorous randomized trials of a youth suicide prevention effort.  While not all teams participate in such a rigorous evaluation, we encourage local groups to evaluate their peer leader efforts. Several tools have been created specifically for Sources of Strength.  A quality data/evaluation toolkit and website is available for Sources of Strength programs through The University of Rochester, NY – Sources of Strength National Peer Leadership Evaluation at a reasonable rate.


Adult advisors can expect to spend approximately 40 hours over a 3-6 month program. This includes a 3-6 hour orientation training and brief monthly teleconference support meetings with Sources of Strength staff but most of this time is spent supporting the peer teams.  Peer leaders spend from 15-50 hours over a 3-6 month program, including a four-hour initial peer training. Most adult advisors will spend around an hour per week working with Sources of Strength. 


Sources of Strength is a strength-based comprehensive wellness program that focuses on suicide prevention but impacts other issues such as substance abuse and violence. The program is based on a relational connections model that uses teams of peer leaders mentored by adult advisors to change peer social norms about help seeking and encourages students to individually assess and develop strengths in their life.

Sources of Strength is most often implemented as a school-based program in middle school, high school, or college. However Sources of Strength is also often used in community, faith-based, and cultural settings. It promotes and focuses on connectivity, school bonding, peer-adult partnerships, and help seeking behaviors.

Trained peer leaders use their network of friends to:

  • Have one-on-one conversations.

  • Develop a Hope, Help, Strength poster and/or psa program using local faces and voices.

  • Present peer to peer presentations.

  • Develop video, internet, or texting messages.

The program is often initiated as 3-6 month project, but is designed as a multi-year project with ongoing peer messaging and contacts growing over time.