"Hope Squads" aim at preventing student suicide in Nebraska panhandle

September 10, 2020 - 2:52pm

Amid the focus on suicide prevention this week, a program in Nebraska’s panhandle aims at preventing suicide among students there.

The program involves “Hope Squads” – teams of students, in elementary through high schools, trained to observe and talk to their peers to identify kids who might be thinking about suicide. Tabi Prochazka of the Panhandle Public Health District said the process starts with a secret ballot election among all the students.

“Everybody in the school votes. And then those people are then looked at by the advisers just to determine yeah, there might be a rotten egg in the batch that isn’t the right person for this job. So everybody gets their pick so, the misfits to the jocks to the – you know, they all get to make a decision on who would they be comfortable talking to,” Prochazka said.

Prochazka compared the process to a school tradition, with a twist.

It’s “kind of like homecoming king or queen where you pick kids that would run for them, but you really pick out those kids that you’d be able to talk to. And then really the school and the advisers work to determine that everybody in the school has somebody they can talk to on that squad. So really making sure it’s a well-rounded squad where they are hitting all the different activities, and those that aren’t in activities so that somebody feels comfortable with somebody there,” she said.

Squad members are trained what to look for, and if they think someone is considering suicide, to talk to the teacher who’s advising the squad, who can put the student in touch with a counselor. So far, Prochazka said, seven schools have signed up in the Panhandle Public Health District, which covers a 12-county area.

Other suicide prevention efforts coming up include “Out of Darkness” community walks to raise awareness. Walks are scheduled for Alliance and Scottsbluff this  Saturday, September 12, and Sidney on Sunday, September 20. More information is below:


Annual Out of the Darkness community walks coming up in Alliance, Scottsbluff, and Sidney

Out of the Darkness community walks are coming up in Alliance, Scottsbluff and Sidney with the continued goal of raising awareness about the devastating effects of suicide.

In consideration of the health and well-being of yourself and other walkers at this critical time:

  • We encourage you to walk with family members in your household and stay at least six feet away from other groups.
  • If you are at risk, please take extra caution participating in this walk.
  • If you are experiencing any of the following on the day of the walk: cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, body chills, headache, loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, please do not attend.

We invite community members to attend in any of the following locations:


Alliance Walk

Date: September 12
Location: Alliance High School PAC-Commons Area (masks will be required in the Commons Area) - 
Check-in/Registration Time: 7:30 am
Walk Program Begins: 8:00 am
Walk Ends: 9:00 am

For more information, please contact:
Contact Name: Janelle Visser 
Contact Phone: 308-760-6493 
Contact Email: jvisser@pphd.org


Scottsbluff Walk

Date: September 12
Location: YMCA Kiwanis Lodge 
Time: 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm

For more information, please contact:
Contact Name: Carisa Crawford 
Contact Phone: 308-760-5951 
Contact Email: crawford_c2@hotmail.com


Sidney Walk

Date: September 20
Location: Sidney Softball Field #3 Legion Park 
Time: 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm

For more information, please contact:
Contact Name: Liz Borgmann 
Contact Phone: 308-249-0095 
Contact Email: daretobefitpt@gmail.com


***It is recommended that you register before you come to walk, you can register also at: afsp.donordrive.com

“Suicide is a public health problem plagued by silence and stigma that continues to be a barrier for seeking help,” stated Janelle Visser, Health Educator for Panhandle Public Health District. “These walks help bring suicide out of the darkness and raise money for education, prevention and awareness programs.”

One in four people live with a mental health condition. This means that someone you know, has or probably has had, thoughts of suicide. We never know what another person is going through. This is a public health issue that does not discriminate by age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

Suicide leaves behind countless family members and friends wondering, “Why did this happen?” “How will I get through it?”

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a number you can call if you have a friend, neighbor, or co-worker who is struggling and you are wondering how to be supportive.  It’s also a number you can call if you are ever in a crisis.  Please enter this number into your cell phone 1-800-273-8255.  



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