School Suicide Prevention Program

The School Communities Program consists of four elements: Sources of Strength, Sources of Strength train the trainer, gatekeeper training and connectedness and capability strategies.

At the core of the Idaho Lives Project (ILP) and its School Communities Program is Sources of Strength. Sources of Strength is an ongoing, strength-based, comprehensive wellness program that focuses on suicide prevention, but also impacts other issues such as substance abuse and violence. This evidence-based program, centered on hope, help and strength, 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 lives.

The Idaho Lives Project implements and supports youth suicide prevention and wellness through the Sources of Strength program in middle, junior, and senior high schools throughout the state of Idaho. The Project started in schools spring of 2014, originally through a Garrett Lee Smith Federal Grant. Since 2016, the Project has been supported through a collaboration with the State Department of Education and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Division of Public Health. In 2020 the Project once again received the Garrett Lee Smith Federal Grant and will be training ten schools per school year with this federal funding. To date, the Idaho Lives Project team has trained 107 schools and will add 10 new schools during the 2020-2021 school year.

New this year is a program for Sources of Strength in elementary schools. Ten schools will be selected through an application process similar to the process for middle and high schools.

Sources of Strength is one of the most rigorously evaluated prevention programs in the world. It takes a multi-pronged approach that includes: instilling resilience in youth by identifying, nurturing and relying on their strengths; fosters connections between youth and adults to build an environment of trust and support; trains youth and adults about warning signs for suicide and depression; instills skills and resources on how to get help when necessary. 

Research has shown that children who feel a sense of belongingness/connectedness and who feel capable are more resilient and at lower risk for all types of risky behavior including suicide. Extensive research also shows that those who complete suicide feel that they do not belong/are not connected to others and, in fact, believe themselves to be a burden to those around them. ILP believes that critical, upstream prevention efforts must include strategies and activities focused on developing connectedness and feelings of capability among young children.

Many youth suicide prevention programs are based solely on intervention as opposed to an upstream intervention/prevention model such as is used in Sources of Strength.  The Sources of Strength program employs the power of peer social networks to change behaviors/norms, and ultimately school culture, to prevent suicide while also reducing incidences of bullying, violence, and substance misuse.

 In addition to Sources of Strength program implementation in Idaho’s schools, our Idaho Lives team also provides a multitude of additional services for Idaho schools and communities.  They include:  Gatekeeper trainings, regional program/school support, community information and outreach, postvention consulting, booster trainings for all Sources schools, mini-Sources trainings, and Adult Advisor/Peer Leader trainings. Gatekeeper training is basic suicide prevention training that includes how to recognize and talk to those at risk for suicide and get them help. Trainings also include basic information about suicide and the suicidal mind, suicide warning signs and risk factors, and information for and about suicide survivors (those who have lost a loved one to suicide).

 For more information on Sources of Strength sourcesofstrength.org and the Idaho Lives Project, feel free to contact us at www.idaholives.org