GENERAL

Hope Squad –A Helping Hand, Saving Lives.

Dr. Greg Hudnall, the founder and executive director of the Hope Squad, takes the lead in the battle against teen suicide, turning personal grief into a strength for change. His battle began in 1997 when, as the former associate superintendent of the Provo City School District, he had the devastating experience of identifying the body of a 14-year-old student who gave up on his life. This heart-wrenching scene made Dr. Hudnall think and form a campaign to prevent such tragedies. Collaborating with psychiatry professor Doug Gray at the University of Utah, he researched to understand the roots of youth suicide, hence introducing his initiative – the Hope Squads.

Starting in Provo, Hope Squads have now expanded to 300 schools in Utah and 14 states, with international discussions in progress, including potential programs in Australia, Northern Ireland, and Brazil. Dr. Hudnall’s diligent efforts have trained around 50,000 adults in suicide prevention and empowered Hope Squads to identify over 2,500 children in need of help.

The Hope Squad initiative, born out of Dr. Hudnall’s leadership, has expanded into a powerful cause in suicide prevention, exceeding geographical grounds. Originally rooted in Utah’s secondary schools, Hope Squads have become a renowned name of hope within the state as well as across the nation. With its origins dating back 14 years, the program has exponentially expanded, finding a place in half of Utah’s secondary schools and 20% of the state’s elementary schools.

The program’s success lies in its unique approach, equipping students to recognize warning signs of depression and suicidal thoughts in their peers and normalizing a supportive environment where they can reach out to adults for professional help. As Hope Squads continue to grow and thrive, their reach expands far beyond school walls, driving a global movement for suicide prevention.

The core of the Hope Squad initiative lies in its impactful approach to training students as vigilant guardians of mental health. This proactive approach, emphasizing peer-to-peer support, is creating a network where students confidently approach their peers in need and guide them toward professional help. The success of Hope Squads is not only measured in the number of schools they’ve reached but also in the 50,000 adults they’ve trained in suicide prevention and awareness. The program has become a catalyst for cultural change, fostering an environment where open conversations about mental health are encouraged, stigma is reduced, and lives are saved through the power of informed compassionate peer support.

As Hope Squads makes its way to impact educational settings at a large scale, Dr. Hudnall’s vision for suicide prevention expands its reach beyond schools. The initiative has ventured into different territories, considering applications in first responder organizations, corporations, and even on Air Force bases. Recognizing that mental health concerns permeate various sides of society; Hope Squad aims to adapt its successful model to address the unique challenges faced by different groups.

With discussions underway to integrate Hope Squads into first responder organizations, doTerra in Pleasant Grove, and an Air Force base, the initiative looks forward to fostering mental health awareness across different communities. Dr. Hudnall’s innovative vision positions Hope Squads not just as a school-based program but as a dynamic platform for suicide prevention that can be molded to meet the specific needs of various organizations and sectors.

In a groundbreaking move, Hope Squads are aiming towards a new frontier, addressing the challenges of suicide prevention on college campuses. The college pilot programs, currently underway at Dixie State University and in colleges across Indiana and Nebraska, mark the first steps in adapting the successful Hope Squad model to the dynamics of higher education.

While the program has flourished in secondary schools, the transition to larger college campuses presents certain challenges, with students’ varied schedules and limited interactions requiring a close approach. Former Hope Squad members, now in college, have expressed interest in bringing the initiative to their campuses, showing the demand for mental health support among university students. With a curriculum addressing topics like date rape, eating disorders, and understanding grief, the Hope Squad initiative envisions a future where every department at a university is equipped with the tools to recognize and intervene in mental health crises, promoting a culture of support and well-being.