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|Sources of Strength|
Sources of Strength is a peer (student)-led school culture change program that brings together trained Adult Advisors and Peer Leaders to create campaigns for the school community that focus on positive, uplifting, and hopeful messaging. A Sources of Strength School develops improved peer culture and a more positive attitude among students related to mental health and help-seeking behavior.
The successful Sources of Strength school demonstrates their readiness through prior preparation including: clear administrative buy-in, adherence to required suicide prevention trainings, and participation in the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS). Not having these benchmarks does not disqualify a school by any means - we are more than willing to provide the school with the needed training.
“Our mission is to provide the highest quality evidence-based prevention for suicide, violence, bullying and substance abuse by training, supporting, and empowering both peer leaders and caring adults to impact their world through the power of connection, hope, help and strength.”
“We believe that many strengths are more powerful than one, and our united goal is to activate and mobilize these strengths in ways that positively change individuals and communities.”
We highly recommend watching the above video which covers the main points about Sources of Strength implementation. Please see below for some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
Peer Leaders are a group of students who reflect the social and ethnic diversity of the whole school. Every student in the school should feel represented by the Peer Leaders. Peer Leaders should volunteer to participate, commit to spreading the Sources of Strength messaging across the school community, and be willing to act as ambassadors of Sources of Strength. This means actively participating in the planning and implementation of campaigns and recruiting new Peer Leaders. Peer Leaders should also be comfortable discussing the Sources of Strength wheel with others and applying it to their own life. The ideal number of Peer Leaders is 10% of the whole student body.
Adult Advisors are a group of trusted adults in the school community. These adults are NOT just classroom teachers, but instead represent a cross-section of the school staff. The Adult Advisors can be any trusted adult that engages with the students. Some examples of Adult Advisors are teachers, administrators, school resource officers, librarians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, etc. Adult Advisors are volunteers, enthusiastic about empowering youth, able to facilitate meetings and campaigns, and actively involved in Peer Leader recruitment efforts. Adult Advisors will also be comfortable discussing the Sources of Strength wheel with others and applying it to their own life. The ideal number of Adult Advisors is 1 to every 10 Peer Leaders (more are welcome and encouraged!). We also ask that one of the Adult Advisors acts as the Lead. This is someone who will coordinate directly with NAMI Maine regarding all the details surrounding implementation.
How do we get trained?
NAMI Maine provides the required training using staff members who are nationally certified to train the Sources of Strength model for both Adult Advisors and Peer Leaders.
The Adult Advisor training is 4-5 hours and occurs the day prior to the Peer Leader training. Adult Advisors learn about the research behind the efficacy of Sources of Strength and the power of social connectedness. During the training, the Adult Advisors are also introduced to the Sources of Strength wheel and why it is so important for them to model the strengths for students.
Since Adult Advisors play a key role in the Peer Leader training, we ask the Adult Advisors to attend both their training and the Peer Leader training. During the Adult Advisor training, we discuss the ways in which we need the Adult Advisors to help facilitate activities during the Peer Leader training.
The Peer Leader training is the day immediately following the Adult Advisor training and we ask that the training is the full school day. During the Peer Leader training, the students learn about the Big 3 emotions (anxiety, anger, sadness), the warning signs of suicide, and how to apply the Sources of Strength wheel to their own lives. Peer Leaders also have the opportunity to brainstorm their first campaign with support from the Adult Advisors.
How much does it cost?
Sources of Strength requires a licensing fee for all schools participating in the program: $750 in Year 1 and $500 in subsequent years. Cost of Sources of Strength implementation is dependent on grant funding. However, schools are expected to assume financial responsibility for the program long-term.
Note: The school is responsible for providing food for both the Adult Advisor and Peer Leader trainings. Additionally, Sources of Strength groups are responsible for using their own funds for food at events and/or meetings. Groups will prepare to purchase their own swag items as grant funding may not always cover this expense.
What is the time commitment?
This is dependent on the group. We ask that Adult Advisors and Peer Leaders meet at least once per month. Some groups might find that to be not enough time to create and carry out campaigns and may assign tasks to members to complete independently and in small groups. This can be discussed further in preliminary conversations and ongoing technical assistance.
How many campaigns are we expected to run in a school year?
We hope that groups will run 6 campaigns per school year. These campaigns should touch upon various strengths from the Sources of Strength wheel and involve the larger school community in different ways.
How long does the program last?
Forever! Once Sources of Strength is implemented in a school, we want the program to be sustainable for years to come. NAMI Maine is available to train new Adult Advisors and Peer Leaders once a year and provide ongoing technical assistance (see below).
What support is provided to the Sources of Strength group at my school?
NAMI Maine provides ongoing technical assistance to the Sources of Strength groups, dependent on their individual needs. Groups may need help with recruitment, campaign ideas, and resource sharing. NAMI Maine staff who are certified in training Sources of Strength are here to assist schools in whatever ways they may need to ensure Sources of Strength is successful. NAMI Maine staff also act as the liaison between schools and Sources of Strength.
Who do I contact to begin the conversation about bringing Sources of Strength to my school?
Please email Libby Wright, the Youth Mental Health Programs Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.