In the last couple of years, Clearfield High School has seen three of its students commit suicide. Just a few miles west, Syracuse High School has experienced similar tragedies with two of its students in the last year. On top of that, Syracuse city has seen a marked increase of suicides in the community.
All three entities knew it was time to take action. Syracuse city worked with its police department and spearheaded a program with the help of the Northern Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition that helps implement hope squads in area high schools.
The program is patterned after a similar one in Provo School District that has resulted in no student suicides since the program started seven years ago.
Davis School District will pilot the program in two high schools, Syracuse and Clearfield, this upcoming school year.
Students in hope squads are meant to be the front line for adults, to be their eyes and ears in finding students who need help. The students in the hope squads, 34 at Clearfield High and 42 at Syracuse, were nominated by their peers as those they were comfortable talking to.
The newly formed hope squads began their training Tuesday, starting with how to recognize trouble signs and connect a troubled student with the right resources. They ended their training with a heart-pounding ascent into the Trapper Trails Boy Scout ropes course in Ogden as they worked together, climbing and getting through challenging obstacles.
Hope squads are successful because studies have shown that teens are more likely to confide in a friend than an adult, said Clearfield High School counselor Diana Johanson.
"They feel safer opening up to a peer, because they feel like they understand them better than us adults."
By training the hope squad kids, the hope is to bridge the gap in communication and encourage students to talk with an adult rather than leave the burden on the kids' shoulders.
"I've had students come and tell me they've been up since 3 a.m. with a friend because they feel like they have to talk them out of something or counsel them," Johanson said.
"It becomes so overwhelming, because they can't manage their lives and their friend's, so this way, the hope squad kids can help them tell parents or bring them to an adult."
Senior Brittney Nash, who is on Clearfield High's hope squad, can relate.
"I've had people come to me in the past, and I just tried to comfort them the best I could, and it was overwhelming, because you start getting really worried about them," she said.
"With this, I know that I can connect them to people who are able to intervene, and I still get the joy of knowing I helped."
For the program to be successful, representatives from the Northern Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition say it is imperative for cities to be supportive and on the ready with resources.
"Suicide is not something people like to talk about in the community, but you have to have their involvement, because if you don't, all of our efforts will die off," said Becky Austad, one of the co-partners at the Northern Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition.
When Syracuse city began spearheading its efforts, Syracuse Mayor Jamie Nagle was surprised by the community support.
"I had hoped the response in the community would be great, but it has been better than I ever thought," she said.
"I really believe it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to save one, and these hope squads are really about the community coming together and pulling together our resources.
"No one can do it all, but if we pull together, we all can do something."