Sources of Strength: Beginning a community-wide cultural shift

(Sheridan, Wyo.) — Everyone struggles. Adults, kids, teachers, students—but none of us have to go it alone. In the fall of 2015, Sheridan High School started a campaign called Sources of Strength: Peer Leaders Spreading Hope, Health and Strength . You may have heard about the program, but it is one worth talking about. And talking about again, and again, and again. Sources of Strength is a best practice youth suicide prevention project designed to harnesses the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying, and substance abuse. "We are very aware that this is an issue in this state, and in this county," SHS School Counselor Mike Swan said. "If there are students out there that are talking about harming themselves, we need to take that seriously and report that." Sources of Strength is based on the premises that a student will talk to another student before an adult. "They are the eyes and ears of this building," Swan said. "If somebody is struggling, we want them to know—we want them to be able to get that person help, however that may be, whether that is through a coach, a teacher, a parent or a minister." The Sources of Strength campaign primarily focuses on the positive aspects of dealing with struggle, reinforcing how people constructively deal with life's challenges. On a macro level, Sources of Strength aims to change cultural norms. "We are helping students realize that these are our issues that everyone goes through, no matter socioeconomic status or mental health issues aside, this is really about taking the stigma away from kids feeling depression, anxiety and anger. Those things are pretty typical, and this educates students from a macro level," Ann Travis, SHS counselor said. Sheridan High School has a three-year agreement with the Sources of Strength program for materials, trainings programming in the school. Any student who wants to participate can attend the twice-monthly meetings on Friday afternoons at the high school, and interested members of the public are also encouraged to attend. School-wide, the students have participated in several activities since the program began this fall. There were star ornaments for every student at Christmastime, the marketing class joined together with Campbell County students in selling #broncstrong and #camelstrong beanies to benefit the program and the leadership team is planning how the programs can continue through the summer months. "This is not just a Sheridan High School project," said Tom Schnatterbeck, a psychologist at SHS. "It is that openness that benefits everyone." A recent survey at the University of Wyoming showed that the major roadblocks to success were anxiety, depression and stress—so we know these problems are not isolated to one age group or demographic, Schnatterbeck said. And so, the Sources of Strength mission is to spread hope, help and strength into every corner of the community. [image: Inline image 1] *Graphic h/t Sources of Strength. Feature photo Pitchengine Communities* #dally #news