Cowley College, ACPD, And Four County Mental Health Partner On Suicide Prevention Program

Looking for ways to better help students deal with mental health issues and assist with suicide prevention, Cowley College, the Arkansas City Police Department, and Four County Mental Health have partnered to start a student-led peer support group on campus called Hope Squad.

According to a news release from Cowley College, Hope Squad members are nominated by their classmates as trustworthy peers and trained by advisors. Although many other states already have Hope Squad, Cowley College is the first school in Kansas to form this group.

Cowley College director of student life Peyton Cravens, student life counselor Ashley Demaree, and health services coordinator Lacey Kennedy teamed with Ark City Police Chief Eric Burr to start Hope Squad.

Chief Burr, Chairperson for the Suicide Prevention Cowley County Coalition, said one of the group’s main goals is to look at peer-to-peer school-based programs, and Hope Squad came up on the radar.

“We were able to get one of the master trainers, as well as CEO and founder of the Hope Squad program (Dr. Greg Hudnall), together in a zoom meeting and it kind of sparked the whole thing,” Burr said. “The way the program is set up, it will teach a selection of students about mental health crisis, suicide prevention, and anti-bullying.

“There is a lot of inclusion and connectedness with the program, so we are hoping that we have a student body that is very intentional in looking for those warning signs for suicide and a mental health crisis and utilize the resources that are available.”

According to Hope Squad founder Dr. Greg Hudnall the program can be found in over 1,300 schools.

“Peer to Peer suicide intervention is one of the most important things we can add to a school system,” Hudnall said. “We know that struggling individuals will reach out to a friend when they are struggling.”

Cravens hopes to get the message out about Hope Squad and hopefully get surrounding schools on board with the program.

“I hope our students feel a sense of belonging when they are here away from home and are able to meet new people on campus that they can connect with over the topic of depression and suicide and feel they are not alone while they are here at Cowley College,” Cravens said. “It’s a great opportunity for our College, but also to try to get the middle school and high school here in Ark City and other surrounding communities on board with us to get this program even in more states.”

Cori Tuxhorn, ACPD Master Police Officer/Mental Health Officer, said this shows that Cowley College cares about its students and has the values people will want to be a part of.

Demaree echoed those sentiments.

“We think it will be a recruitment tool to where if students have Hope Squad at their high school or middle school, then we hope they will want to come here because they know we have a Hope Squad available and there will be people there that they can connect with,” Demaree said.