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Sources of Strength

By Staff | Mar 21, 2014

Submitted Rugby High School eighth-grader Morgan Hjelden (left) assists classmate Haley Miron in untangling herself from yarn in a recent team-building exercise for the Sources of Strength organization. Sources of Strength is the subject of a national study on peer leaders and their impact in suicide prevention.

A group of more than 40 Rugby High School students, trained to be peer leaders, is growing as Sources of Strength approaches its second year.

Sources of Strength has chapters across the country and is the subject of one of the largest studies on peer leaders and their impact in suicide prevention.

The groups have worked to increase students’ connectedness to adults, engagement at school and help students assist peers in handling bullying, substance abuse, mental health issues and violence.

“It kind of unites the student body,” RHS junior Kassi Jorgenson said. “For everyone who is in it, it gives you a space where you can talk about stuff and be open and be who you are. You connect with people you don’t usually talk to.”

The eight sources of strength on the organization’s colorful wheel are mental health, family support, positive friends, mentors, healthy activities, generosity, spirituality and medical access.

“What I like about it is the focus on positive messages and changing social norms,” RHS counselor Julie Sjol said. “It’s research-based. It’s been great. The kids get it and they’re really excited about it.”

At one recent gathering, the students were challenged to untangle each other and a peer from yarn wrapped around their limbs and bodies.

“The teaching point is: We all have felt stuck at times and sometimes no matter how hard you try you can’t get out,” Sjol said. “Sometimes it takes getting help from someone outside of that problem, someone with a different perspective or outlook to help you get through it.”

Sources of Strength comes with pamphlets detailing how to spot signs of depression, substance abuse, trauma and aggressive/impulsive behavior.

“We had a speaker that came and he talked to us about suicide prevention and things you can do to spot people who are feeling depressed,” Jorgenson said, “and he talked to us about how we can start groups.”

The program is still in its infancy at RHS, but Jorgenson can tell the positive approach is making a difference.

“I’ve noticed that some of the people that are in the group are becoming more open to talk to the other people in the group, even if they don’t hang out a lot,” Jorgenson said. “They’re becoming more social.”

Sources of Strength is planning a family game night for April. Students and parents interested in participating can attend a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.

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