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South Valley Journal

Sources of Strength help teens deal with stress

Apr 13, 2020 02:13PM ● By Jet Burnham

A colorful parachute brings students together for fun group games. (Ashley Taylor/MRHS)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

When Avery Houghton gets stressed out, she goes for a run, she listens to music, she talks to her mom, she prays. As a participant in the new Sources of Strength program at Mountain Ridge High School, the junior is an example to her peers of where to turn for strength through troubling times.

“I learned that in our lives, we have so many sources of strength,” she said. “The tiny things we do in our lives have so much meaning to help mental health.”

MRHS counselor John Blodgett said the program promotes positive behaviors so teens don’t turn to unhealthy coping strategies.

“Sources of Strength builds a culture within the school,” Blodgett said. “It creates a network of social norms that promote healthy ways that students can turn for strength.”

The eight areas of support the program emphasizes are: family support, positive friends, mentors, healthy activities, generosity, spirituality, medical access and mental health.

Mountain Ridge students were introduced to the program during a Kickoff Week held March 9–13. Students wrote down their ideas of sources in each area available to them, creating a colorful wheel on a wall in the Commons Area. Interactive activities gave students examples of how to deal with stress in healthy ways. Group games such as 9 Square and parachute games were an example of Healthy Activities and Positive Friends. The most popular activity was when cuddly therapy dogs visited on Positive Friends Day.

Blodgett transferred to MRHS from Herriman High School where he was a counselor for eight years. He chose to implement a new suicide prevention program at the new school to address issues not covered by HHS’s Hope Squad program, which was aimed at students already in crisis.

“Source of Strength is looking at the upstream approach of suicide prevention, really looking way far upstream before a student gets into a mode of crisis,” Blodgett said. “So, it’s not only just suicide prevention and mental health, but it encompasses a lot—spreading messages of hope and health and strength.”

Sources of Strength is also a more inclusive program than Hope Squad, which turned into a kind of popularity contest, said Blodgett.

“I think it's really neat to see the unity and bringing everyone together-—it doesn't matter who you are; just anybody can participate,” said Lydia Douglas, a junior who jumped at the opportunity to help her peers through the program.

Blodgett calls core students like Avery and Lydia agents of social change. Their role is to help their peers identify supports they have available to them during difficult times in their lives.

“It's neat to see that it's not just a school-based program but something that you can apply outside of your school life,” Lydia said. “I think it's going to be really beneficial. And it's not all about just suicide prevention in general. It's just about drawing on core values that can help us become better people.”

Currently, 33 students have been trained in the program. Anyone is welcome to attend the twice-a-month meetings to talk about how to spread their message and plan monthly themes and activities.

“We don't just want one cookie-cutter model of what we think is an exemplary kid,” Blodgett said. “It's designed to incorporate all aspects of every sub-group—the whole peer social network within a school. That's what was the draw to me. It wasn't just limited to a certain mold of kids, but it's widespread and helps us build resiliency.”

Blodgett said students are enthusiastic, and school staff and administrators are on board for the new program. Blodgett is aware of only two other local schools using the program, which has been widely praised. West Jordan High and Timpanogos High both recently started programs. Follow SOS on [email protected]