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A Strengths-Based Approach to Teen Suicide Prevention

On December 12th, 2023, the Vibrant Hawaiʻi Ambassadors participated in the Sources of Strength training in Hilo alongside local educators, school counselors, and other youth-serving professionals. Sources of Strength is a nationwide organization that addresses suicide prevention through a unique and positive approach. Their mission is to empower students by fostering confidence and open communication, particularly in the context of mental health. The program provides a curriculum for both secondary and primary schools, focusing on suicide awareness and prevention. What sets Sources of Strength apart is its emphasis on creating connections within academic communities through peer and adult advisors who lead specific training. Unlike some traditional approaches that concentrate on the negative aspects of mental health, Sources of Strength focuses on the positive, encouraging individuals to share their sources of strength with others. The organization incorporates social network theory into its strategies and aims to combat feelings of isolation by building a supportive community.

Trevondrick Francis, 21, who has both studied and observed the challenges faced by those dealing with suicide, expressed that feelings of being unsupported are at the crux of the issue. "When it comes to mental health, people our age struggle to ask for help, even when they know what resources are available to them. The experience of feeling unsupported by those closest to us is what truly causes a person to feel alone."

To address these feelings, the program identifies and trains peer leaders in schools, empowering them to act as positive influencers and role models. Collaborating with adult advisors, typically educators, these peer leaders drive initiatives, facilitate discussions, and organize events that foster genuine connections among students. Through peer-to-peer connections, Sources of Strength actively encourages open conversations about mental health. This approach makes a significant impact on building resilience and support within academic communities.


"I attribute much of the success of Sources of Strength to the inclusion of youth and young adults,' says Amylia-Rae Gandolf, 24. She adds, 'Young people play a critical role in shifting the cultures and mindsets held by their peers. Youth issues require youth solutions."


At the training's conclusion, all four Ambassadors shared a common sentiment: the meetings had a distinct feel. Rather than solely delving into why teenagers face challenges, the emphasis shifted to a positive aspect—discovering ways to share strength with others. They appreciated the discussions centering more on healing and hope rather than simply navigating difficult situations. This fresh perspective, supported by research, strongly resonated with our Ambassadors. They found it extremely valuable and deemed it the perfect conclusion to their internship with Vibrant Hawaiʻi.


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