It’s something the school did last year several times in order to provide students and any interested community members with a forum to talk about the sensitive and important issue.
Hunt was aided in the discussion by student volunteer Aspen English. The two explained early on during the group discussion that Utah is ranked number four in the nation for suicides.
It’s one of the reasons HOPE Squad formed in Utah. HOPE Squad members, like English, are trained student peers who have been voted on by the student body as trusted peer counselors.
Through evidence-based training modules, members are empowered through training to help save lives. One of the main preventative measures of suicide is recognizing risk factors.
“The risk factors are all of those things that increase that risk of somebody feeling depressed or considering suicide,” Hunt explained. “We try to balance those risk factors out with what we call protective factors.
“And those protective factors are looked at to reduce the chance that somebody will actually take that step.”
One of the main risk factors the guidance counselor and school now monitor is the overall mental health conditions that exist within the school.
“That’s one of the main risk factors we are looking for,” Hunt said. “That’s when we have a history of mental health or depression or any of those kinds of things.
“We need to end the stigma that mental health is a bad thing. We need to say that, ‘everybody always has some issues.’ Some of us have a harder time dealing with it than others.”
Hunt went on to name other risk factors such as self abuse, stressful life events, prolonged stress, family history, previous suicide attempts, or exposure to suicides.
“That’s why when we had one at our school last year, we mobilized the community to really look at the exposure amongst students and what they were thinking and doing and try to provide all the support we could,” Hunt said. “And then look at access to lethal means.
“Are there guns that are unlocked? Are there some pills that are unaccounted for? Some of those kinds of thing and how we go about protecting ourselves from them.”
Monticello High School student volunteer Aspen English went over some of the protective factors involved in prevention after Hunt finished reviewing the risk factors.
“We really talk about making connections with other students, especially ones who don’t have many friends or aren’t maybe as involved, or even if they seem lonely and down,” English said in reference to previous Hope Squad discussions about preventative measures she has been involved in.
“We have meetings and we talk about all the things that we can do as peers to help recognize those risk factors in others.”
Attendance for the group discussion was low, but Hunt is hoping that by bringing community awareness to the discussions, they can grow in the future for anyone who is interested.
For more information about the group, feel free to contact Hunt at the Monticello High School.