COLORADO SPRINGS — Students at Mesa Ridge High School are hoping to make a change.
“It really focuses on the positive and the strengths that the students have,” said Erin Murphy, school counselor at Janitell Junior High School. “And it allows them to connect their peers to adults that can help them in the community and in their school.”
They’re part of District 3’s Sources of Strength, a research-based suicide and bully prevention program.
“Middle school was kind of rough for me, and by getting in that, I got to talk to a lot of people and you got to talk about your problems and stuff,” said Abby Cvar, a freshman at Mesa Ridge High School. “And I feel like that helped a lot of people and you also get to connect with others and learn about their experiences.”
The program pulls in students from different social groups.
“So, we’ll have kids that are from the band, kids that are on sports, we have drama kids, the music kids,” Murphy said. “All that kind of stuff, so then that way, we have a good sampling of the student population.”
Mesa Ridge High School senior Travis Dumas said it’s helped him notice signs of depression in his friends.
“Not being social, just being gloomy all the time. Not really eating a lot, being very self-absorbed,” Dumas said.
“There’s a lot of issues with mental health and there’s still a stigma as far as talking about it and seeking help, and that’s really what this program promotes, is to promote that help-seeking abilities,” Murphy said. “And having the students connect their friends that might be having some troubles with stress and anxiety to someone in their community who can help.”
Sources of Strength initially started at Janitell Junior High School and Mesa Ridge High School as pilot schools last year.
Now, the program is being implemented in all secondary schools in D-3.
“At both schools, it got to the point where we had other students that weren’t peer leaders to start coming to us and say, ‘how do I become a part of this?’ And so it started growing our program. I think Mesa Ridge started with about 50 or 60 peer leaders and now we’re up to almost 80,” Murphy said.
Through Sources Of Strength, students hold campaigns based on the Strengths Wheel, with a month dedicated to positive friends or family support.
“My favorite was when my group spoke in front of the whole school about it,” Cvar said. “And I also really enjoyed when we got together in the gym or in the library and we got to talk about our days and stuff.”
“Sources of Strength is really a counter to that to basically say, ‘hey, it’s okay to talk to somebody about this. You’re not alone in this,'” Dumas said.