Hope Squad Brings Peer Support to Campus


Bia Shok

With suicide being the second leading cause of death, Hope Squad focuses on targetting this prevalent issue through three important steps: prevention, intervention and postvention.

Bia Shok and Claudia Lin

In Janurary, the counseling department is expected to launch Portola’s first Hope Squad, a peer-led suicide prevention program equpping students with the skills to recognize and support others experiencing mental health issues. Throughout November, potential members will undergo an interview process to determine their acceptance into this nation-wide program. 

“What makes Hope Squad so unique is that it is a peer-led program,” mental health specialist and co-lead Hope Squad adviser Maureen Muir said. “There is so much research that is focusing on suicide prevention right now in children and teens, and most of the research comes out saying that peer programs are better and more effective than just having assigned adults on campus.”

To be considered for this program, staff and students can nominate each other through a Google Form provided during advisement. Nominees exhibit immense trustworthiness and loyalty in the eyes of their classmates and will be interviewed by Hope Squad advisers in pursuit of assembling a diverse group of staff and students that represent varying interests across campus. 

“Suicide ranks second in cause of teenage death, and so there is obviously a need to have a big emphasis on how we can help, how we can get teens connected to the right support or the right people whether it is on campus or out in the community,” Muir said. 

Partnered with numerous mental health organizations, Hope Squad integrates question, persuade and refer (QPR) training. Based on this method, advisers follow a similar curriculum that is designed to train students to identify peers enduring mental health issues.

“It’s really important because right now one of the leading causes of death in teenagers is suicide, and a lot of that is preventable as well,” sophomore and Hope Sqaud nominee Elena Kim said. “So if you have more people aware about it and keeping track of their friends and making sure that they are okay, you can reduce that suicide rate.”

As passionate mental health advocates, Hope Squad members and advisers will strive to not only facilitate positive relationships with others, but also aim to break the code of silence that surrounds the stigma in mental health. 

“I hope that this program will allow for students to connect more with one another, because at the end of the day, we’re all going through something,” senior and nominee Chris Choung said. “I’m sure there’s at least one person who’s gone through something similar, and finding that one person or maybe even group through this program will allow for the people who had the courage to be vulnerable to understand that they’re not alone in the downs in their life.”