- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 16, 2017

LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) - You’re not alone. There’s hope, and we’re here to help.

That’s the mantra of several Logansport High School students in the school’s suicide prevention group. They work together to support and help their peers going through hard times.

“We’re there to remind them that it’s OK to get help,” junior Madeline Dexter said. “It’s OK to go to someone even if you’re afraid, even if you think that you’re better off by yourself - you’re not.”

This past Saturday, those high schoolers were to join the more than 200 people participating in the “Out of the Darkness Campus Walk” at the LHS track. The event, organized by the Cass County Zero Suicide Task Force, is meant to promote awareness of suicide prevention and raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the local task force for research and education.

According to the Indiana Youth Survey, almost 20 percent of Indiana students contemplated suicide in 2015 - a few percentage points higher than the national average. It’s also the second leading cause of death among people ages 15-24 in the state.

Sources of Strength, the name of the student group, started almost 20 years ago in North Dakota. The evidence-based program has since spread to schools across the nation, in almost 40 states.

The LHS students, hand-picked by faculty and staff members, were trained on what to do if they come across a peer who needs help. One of the main purposes of Sources of Strength is to spread stories of hope and strength, not trauma, said Sherry Harris, LHS life skills coach.

Junior Clarissa Luna said they’re not student psychiatrists, but rather student leaders who can identify warning signs and talk to a student before referring them to a counselor at the school. Sometimes, she said, it’s intimidating to talk an adult instead of a peer at first.

The program uses a wheel split into eight parts to represent elements strength, such as family support, positive friends and spirituality. Clarissa said each piece creates a net of support.

Logan Torrey, a sophomore, said during one lunch period, the group brought a banner of the wheel and encouraged students to write down the name of someone in their life that exemplifies those traits. Logan, who wants to study social work and Christian ministries in college, said she helped a student a while back who needed someone to talk to, and that she hopes more and more students learn that there are students at the high school willing to help and listen.

“I’ve gone through that before, where I’ve been in a low point in my life and I felt like I had nothing or no one to help me get through it,” she said, “so having this group, I can make sure that people know that they have someone and that the next day is going to be better than ever.”

During the training, many of the students realized their own personal issues as they opened up with one another, conversations that proved difficult for most. Haley McGee, a junior, said every single person in the group has gone through hard times - experiences, she said, that have now made them all stronger.

“Before this, most kids - almost all of us - walked around the school like we were the only ones that had went through something bad,” Haley said. “And there are so many of us that have the same stories. And a program like this brings us together and we can all help each other.”

At Saturday’s walk, participants were also to get a chance to release white balloons to represent those who’ve killed themselves and keep hold of colored balloons for people who’ve attempted to end their life, senior Ryleigh Ryan said. She joined Sources of Strength because a best friend of hers took their own life last school year. The group, Ryleigh said, has helped her to cope.

Both Logansport middle schools have also implemented the programs. The high schoolers not only want the group to grow in numbers and impact at LHS next year, but they also want every school in the county to embrace the program.

“Once we help somebody, they could go and help somebody else,” Clarissa said, “so it really is a chain-reaction that we’re starting. It’s important that it starts now and as soon as possible.”

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Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune, https://bit.ly/2q9LXN9

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Information from: Pharos-Tribune, https://www.pharostribune.com

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