There has been an almost 33% improve within the U.S. suicide price since 1999.

SHARONVILLE – Jennifer Wright-Berryman regarded over a room full of Southwest Ohio youngsters sharing tales concerning the powerful enterprise of personifying hope in highschool.

“Have people made fun of you for being on Hope Squad?” Wright-Berryman requested, and a wave of assent rolled arose. She nodded. “You are like firefighters. You are first responders. You are responding to all the fires we have to put out.”

More than 450 center and highschool college students throughout Southwest Ohio acquired excused from class Monday to attend the primary Ohio Hope Squad Conference on the Sharonville Convention Center. The college students and their advisors have shaped the area’s first Hope Squads – teams of friends skilled to take heed to classmates struggling disappointment, disaster, mental health issues or suicidal ideas.

Hope Squad is a nationwide motion to handle the youth-suicide epidemic by countering the notion that youngsters don’t have the maturity to deal with heavy feelings.

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More than 450 Southwest Ohio center and highschool college students met on the Sharonville Convention Center for the primary Ohio Hope Squad Conference, geared toward altering the tradition of highschool. (Photo: The Enquirer/Anne Saker)

In Ohio, suicide is the second-leading explanation for demise amongst youngsters, and adults are flawed to assume younger folks should not discuss suicide, stated Wright-Berryman, a suicide expert in the School of Social Work at the University of Cincinnati. She also is the national research director for Hope Squad.

“These kids know just how bad the problem is,” she said. “They know better than most adults do.”

Hope Squad moved into Southwest Ohio thanks to Diane Egbers of Cincinnati, whose 15-year-old son Grant died of suicide in 2015. She said Monday she wanted her foundation, Grant Us Hope, to give teenagers tools and language to help each other.

“When Grant died, I knew we had to start doing things differently,” Egbers said. “We really hadn’t had any breakthroughs. But I feel strongly that this generation of kids is the one that will change things. They are so much more inclusive and accepting.”

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Hope Squad started this school year in 39 Southwest Ohio middle and high schools, including Mason High School, the state’s largest. When a new school year starts in the fall, Egbers said, at least 55 area schools will have Hope Squads.

Students recommend classmates to Hope Squad, and squad members receive training in listening to and empathizing with students. The squad members do not offer counseling or therapy but refer students to adults who can help.

Hope Squad’s primary task is to offer a connection and a sense of belonging to all students. But spreading love and caring isn’t easy in the bubbling cauldron of high school. Wright-Berryman led sessions on changing the culture, and Hope Squad members talked about how often they hear friends say “I’m going to kill myself,” and some joker responds, “OK, Hope Squad, here’s your chance!”

Wright-Berryman counseled that teenagers often use threats because they can’t find the right words to express anger or sorrow or disappointment. So when faced with a suicide threat, a Hope Squad member can respond, “Are you all right? Because if you’re serious, I’m here for you.”

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“Your message,” she said, “is that you don’t have to be on Hope Squad to spread hope.”

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