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Parma high schools using 'Hope Squad' program to address mental health: 'You Are Not Alone' series with Hollie Strano

Parma Senior High will also hold a mental health summit for hundreds of students on Nov. 22.

PARMA, Ohio — Northeast Ohio high schools are slowly introducing mental health programs into their daily offerings, but it's hard to catch every student and every emotion.

When we see our students and kids struggle, we want to find them help. But in Parma's three high schools, they're finding hope to bridge this gap.

"At Parma High, we've been doing mental health ambassadors for quite some time," Marian Armstrong, counselor at Parma Senior, told 3News. "Our district supported that by purchasing this 'Hope Squad' program. It’s a national program for suicide prevention."

The Hope Squad consists of several students at each school -- including 15 at Parma Senior High -- who meet monthly to share ways to encourage others, spot problems, and find help. They follow the Hope Squad model, developed first for a school in Utah in the 90s, after a high school principal became physically ill once he heard of a student suicide. The unique part about it is the way it uses the students.

“What they do is they go out into the building, they help monitor our social media, so if someone’s struggling on social media they'd let us know," Armstrong explained. "If someone's sitting by themselves or sitting out in the hallway, our hope squad members go up and they talk to them."

Each student in the program is there for a reason. They're nominated to the squad by friends, fellow students, and teachers who see them as leaders and kind-hearted students.

"Being able to get people the help they need is very life-changing," 10th grader and Hope Squad member Brooke Frye said. "The littlest bit of help can change somebody's day or week or whatever they need."

"Especially with having high school students going through the same as you," 11th grader and fellow member Camryn Bahle added. "Not every adult can help, because they’re not going through the same thing as you."

Each Hope Squad member's biggest goal? Reminding people they're not alone.

"Not being ok is being ok," Frye admitted. "You can struggle with stuff and still be the best you can be."

Parma Senior High School will be hosting a mental health summit this coming Monday, where students from all three schools will go through mental health training. It's a program that was put off last year due to COVID-19.

The district's Hope Squad program is in it's third year of usage. You can learn more about it here.