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Improve Youth Mental Health with Sources of Strength

March 11, 2023

“WOW! I had a great time! I feel so energized!” I left the four-day train-the-trainer event for Sources of Strengths last August, asking myself, “How can I start promoting this model?” In September of 2022, I started on a new path to bring the Sources of Strengths model to schools in Minnesota as one of my services.

The mental health of our youth is the canary in the coal mine; it’s telling us that our youth need help and support. Adults need to pay attention! The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recently published a report on youth mental health. Spoiler alert, the report was not a positive trend, especially for teen girls

Youth mental health is a growing concern in the United States, as many young people are struggling with mental health challenges that can impact their overall well-being and ability to function in school and society. The alarm bells were ringing about youth mental health in the fall of 2021 when the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry posted a statement declaring a national emergency of a mental health crisis among children. 

Talk to the school staff if you need more convincing that youth need our support. Educators and school staff need help to handle all the issues stemming from the mental health crisis of youth. 

I have been in prevention for over 18 years and trained in teaching social and emotional learning (SEL) to elementary students. However, I had yet to find a great program to engage middle school and high school students in developing the SEL skills they needed. I knew that SEL skills could help improve mental health outcomes, and in my research to find a model, I stumbled upon Sources of Strength

The Source of Strength program is a best-practice youth mental health promotion and evidence-based suicide prevention program that uses adult advisors and peer leaders to create positive change in school communities. 

Sources of Strength works with caring adults and a diverse team of peer youth leaders to promote connections, hope, help, and strength among students and staff. The program increases awareness of mental health issues and suicide prevention through targeted campaigns.

Here are a few reasons why I liked the Sources of Strength model.

  1. The students lead the campaigns. Sources of Strength is a youth-led model, not teacher-led like many other programs. During the peer leader training, students are reminded that they have a voice and that their voice matters!
  1. The campaigns are positive messaging around connecting with a trusted adult, belonging, thankfulness, positive friends, and what helps during times of stress, to name a few. All the campaigns are outlined in a field guide for the advisors and are highly customizable by the peer leaders. 
  1. Sources of Strength is a program that can fill a gap in many schools, but especially in rural schools where students have limited mental health resources.
  1. Lastly, there is training for the adult advisors and community members and the peer leaders with their adult advisors. In training, the emphasis is not to make peer leaders to be “little” therapists; they are asked to be a support to their peers through being “Connectors to Help” and “Agents of Change.” Peer leaders will know before adults if other students are struggling. They can help their peers notice their strengths and create a culture where seeking help is the norm.
  1. If you need one more reason why I like Sources of Strengths, it’s a well-being model not just for youth; it’s for everyone! Sources of Strengths works with the protective factors that are an umbrella for efforts in teaching about ways to decrease anxiety and depression and increase wellness

How can you bring Sources of Strength to your school or community?

The Source of Strength program has been successfully implemented in schools across the United States and has been shown to be effective in promoting positive mental health outcomes and reducing suicide risk.

Many schools nationwide have successfully implemented the Sources of Strength program. On Instagram, search #sourcesofstrength, and you will see campaigns from middle and high schools across the country. 

Those are just a few examples of schools successfully implementing the Sources of Strength program. Many schools have reported positive outcomes from implementing the program, including improved student mental health, reduced suicidal ideation, and a more positive school culture.

The first step to implementing the Source of Strength program in schools is to talk to the school administration and staff about its benefits and obtain their support. 

I can help you with this step! I have developed a short presentation highlighting the components of Sources of Strength model to present to interested schools. I also have a professional development workshop for the staff to experience the Sources of Strength model. 

I am now a certified Sources of Strength trainer, meaning I can conduct adult advisor and peer leader training for schools and youth organizations, plus additional support to advisors. My dream is to have a supportive, collaborative network of schools in Minnesota that will gather online and in person to share resources, campaign ideas, and improve youth and community wellness outcomes. 

Will you join me?


Click HERE to have more information about the Sources of Strengths model.

Click HERE to schedule a short conversation with me about Sources of Strength.