Walla Walla community trained to prevent suicide

Sources of Strength trainers have been spreading awareness and hope in Walla Walla by teaching others how to prevent suicide.

The community building event was held at Whitman College on Thursday night, and Lincoln High School and Walla Walla High School earlier in the week.

During the week the program trained about 100 peer leaders who can spread the message they learned of hope, health and strength through their own music, art, social media and in school.

Peggy Needham with W2 for Drug Free Youth helped secure a $20,000 state grant to bring the program to Walla Walla schools.

Sources of Strength is a international program with the mission to provide evidence-based prevention for suicide, violence, bullying and substance abuse by training, supporting, and empowering peer leaders and adults. The program website said they do this through the power of connection, hope, help and strength.

Walla Walla community trained to prevent suicide

Walla Walla county has lost seven people to suicide since January of this year, said Needham.

Seven Walla Walla county teens have committed suicide since 2013, five of those in the last two years.

“We’ve learned that schools alone will not be able to address this in isolation,” said Dr. Wade Smith, Superintendent of Walla Walla public schools. “Nor can we expect parents or our faith based communities to overcome the obstacles we face by themselves. It’s going to take our entire community.”

Washington state has an average of two suicides per week in people under the age of 25.

“Are you brave enough to start a conversation that matters?” asked a flyer for the event.

Mark LoMurray, Founder and Executive Director of Sources of Strength, spoke to about one hundred community members Thursday night.

Peer leaders that had been trained throughout the week spoke about their experience.

“For me the training was really fun,” said a student named Liz.

Liz explained that most suicide prevention programs bombard you with depressing information, but the Sources of Strength training involved games, allowing students to make connections with others.

Walla Walla community trained to prevent suicide

The program teaches people to identify their sources of strength: positive friends, mentors, healthy activities, mental health, medical access, generosity, family support and spirituality.

LoMurray said if teenagers can learn to talk about life from a strength perspective now, it will stick with them as they grow older.

“Peer leaders are patient zero in an epidemic of hope,” said LoMurray.