SHERIDAN — Sheridan High School’s Sources of Strength provided an update on suicide prevention efforts at the December suicide coalition meeting. Students started the Sources of Strength initiative in 2016 and have grown it to spread across social media and into students’ closets with T-shirts emphasizing the need for kindness.
SOS is an international organization with a mission to provide the highest quality evidence-based prevention for suicide, violence, bullying and substance abuse by training, supporting and empowering both peer leaders and adults to impact their world through the power of connection, hope, help and strength, according to the organization’s website.
SHS psychologist Tom Schnatterbeck shared the progress of the group with the Sheridan County Suicide Prevention Coalition Dec. 13. The coalition typically has a quiet schedule over the winter holiday, so the efforts from students were appreciated by the group.
Schnatterbeck said the initiative at SHS is completely student run, but four adult supervisors help with the group’s annual retreat.
Students collaborated with The Union at the Montgomery and Bighorn Design to create a logo to help spread the word about kindness and the SOS group.
The logo can be found on T-shirts, stickers and pins. SHS administrators paid half of the cost of T-shirts so each staff member could purchase them at a cheaper price. Shirts cost $16, and stickers and pins cost $3 at full price.
“Hopefully we’re going to get this campaign about it’s OK to be kind to people, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing,” Schnatterbeck said.
The T-shirts launched at the beginning of December. To add to the visual campaign of the shirts, students created a video describing why December and January would feature a “Cool to be Kind” campaign.
“Our goal is to take special recognition to the kindness that goes through our school,” Jack Erramouspe said in the video.
Around 30 students are actively participating in the SOS initiative. Earlier this year, SOS and SHS student council teamed up to create a “Caught Being Kind” initiative in which students were awarded T-shirts — designed by special education teacher Gretchen McCafferty — for doing a kind deed.
In March 2019, SOS will host a trainer from Denver, who will train the SOS initiative members for one day and train the entire SHS sophomore class on the second day.
Beyond that, students and counselors hope to further their reach with additional training.
“We’re looking to get trainers to go to Denver so we can just keep it going,” Schnatterbeck said.
Schnatterbeck and his team of high school counselors reached out to junior high school counselors in hopes of integrating SOS at Sheridan Junior High School. Students also anticipate stretching their influence to outlying school districts in the Tongue River Valley, Big Horn and Clearmont.
The first two years showed establishment and growth within the organization. Now, the group is strong and consistent enough to start branching out to other students, schools and communities.
“It kind of gets our messaging out to the community,” Schnatterbeck said. “It was our big push this year was getting awareness of what we’re doing and how to reach out to people in the community and students can join.”