Jim Gribben, pictured at left, and Holyoke Elementary counselor Kathleen Kropp, pictured at right, attempt to untangle their strings in a hands-on activity Nov. 4. Maranda Miller teaches them a strategy to do so, illustrating the point that sometimes people need help — and that’s OK. — The Holyoke Enterprise | Johnson Publications
Community members learn Sources of Strength
This week has featured multiple events targeting different groups, all with the goal of preventing suicide among local youth. Each presentation is led by Maranda Miller of Centennial Mental Health and uses the Sources of Strength program.
At school on Monday, Nov. 4, two separate assemblies were held: one for fifth and sixth graders and another for JR/SR high students. Though this is the second year of implementing Sources of Strength at Holyoke schools, branching out to the upper elementary students is new this year.
On Monday evening, Miller led a community training in which parents and community members could learn about the Sources of Strength program taught to students. Gathered in the HHS auditorium, they discussed the eight sources: family support, positive friends, mentors, healthy activities, generosity, spirituality, and access to medical and mental health services.
As students learned, different people have different sources of strength. Someone may not have great family support, but strength can be found from friends or a mentor. Strength should also come from multiple sources, rather than relying solely on one. Miller added that a person’s sources will likely change with time, and that’s to be expected.
Monday’s community training also highlighted risk factors and warning signs that the adults in attendance should be aware of. The list included things like substance abuse, trauma, depression and aggression. An important rule of thumb is to be aware of changes and things that aren’t typical for that particular person.
And if it seems like someone might be thinking about suicide, ask directly. It’s not easy, Miller said, but it’s necessary.
Part of the Sources of Strength program involves identifying peer leaders within the school. Miller explained that the goal is to have all pockets of the school represented. Whether students tend toward sports, band, drama or something else, there should be a peer leader they can connect with.
Friday, Nov. 8, will feature this week’s final Sources of Strength event at Holyoke Schools. It is specifically for the peer leaders. These students, Miller pointed out, aren’t expected to be “junior psychologists.” Instead, they’re taught to leverage their social influence to create positive change. They also learn to connect other students to help.
For more information about Sources of Strength, visit www.sourcesofstrength.org.