Sources of Strength is…
A best practice youth suicide prevention project designed to harness the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying, and substance abuse. The mission of Sources of Strength is to prevent suicide by increasing help seeking behaviors and promoting connections between peers and caring adults. Sources of Strength moves beyond a singular focus on risk factors by utilizing an upstream approach for youth suicide prevention. This upstream model strengthens multiple sources of support (protective factors) around young individuals so that when times get hard they have strengths to rely on.
Mission: Our mission is to provide the highest quality evidence-based prevention for suicide, violence, bullying and substance abuse by training, supporting, and empowering both peer leaders and caring adults to impact their world through the power of connection, hope, help and strength.
Vision: We believe that many strengths are more powerful than one, and our united goal is to activate and mobilize these strengths in ways that positively change individuals and communities.
Sources of Strength was the subject of one of the nation’s largest studies on peer leaders and their impact in suicide prevention. The results of this study were published in 2010 in the American Journal of Public Health, showing:
Increase in peer leaders’ connectedness to adults
Increase in peer leaders’ school engagement
Peer leaders in larger schools were four times more likely to refer a suicidal friend to an adult
Among general student population the program increased positive perceptions of adult support for suicidal youth and the acceptability of seeking help
Positive perception of adult support increased most in students with a history of suicidal thoughts
Sources of Strength is the first suicide prevention program involving peer leaders to enhance protective factors associated with reducing suicide at the school population level.
In 2010, Sources of Strength and the University of Rochester began a 6-year randomized trial using Sources of Strength with more than 40 high schools to measure the impact of 1,500 peer leaders on approximately 15,000 adolescents; this ongoing study is being funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as part of the National Peer Leadership Study.