Bringing HOPE to Okaloosa County Schools

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By Peggy Brockman, Author and Speaker, Executive Director,
United for a Good Cause, Inc., Hope Squad Master Trainer Certified

On February 26, I received that call no parent or grandparent ever wants to receive. One of my grandsons had attempted to take his own life – he attempted to commit suicide. He was the most unsuspecting person in his high school. Active, Student Council member, straight A student, good looking, heart-centered young man who really thinks through things and looks at life rationally. Until this day.

You see, he was being bullied by a couple of girls in one of his classes. They were saying horrible, hurtful things and embarrassing him in front of his peers. (Their explanation when they found out the result of their behavior was that they were screwed up in the head and he had it all together and that was why they did it.) He made his first B which was like failing to him. There were changes going on in his family life that were unsettling. When it was all added together, he simply felt HOPELESS.

We were lucky. He survived. Over 6,800 young people aren’t as fortunate each year. Over 6,800 families are still grieving the loss of their precious young ones. Each day more than 3,000 teens nationwide attempt suicide. Teen suicide skyrocketed 76% between 2008 and 2018. Okaloosa County lost 30 young people ages 10-24 in the last five years – 17 of those were ages 9-18. And there were thousands of attempts and ideations.

IT MUST STOP. United for a Good Cause, Inc., a Florida 501c3 non-profit organization which is focused on the growth and development of our area youth, has taken on the mission of doing something about it. They asked me to come on board to research the programs available and after months of research, we chose the Hope Squad program started by Hope4Utah. Hope Squads reduce youth suicide through education, training and peer intervention. It was the best peer-to-peer suicide prevention program we could find. Hope Squad members are nominated by their classmates as trustworthy peers and trained by certified advisors. They are not taught to act as counselors, but rather how to be peer advocates, recognize signs of suicide contemplation, and respectfully report any concerns to an adult. Hope Squads are the eyes and ears of the school.

Hope Squad members strive to create a safe school environment, promote kindness and connectedness, support anti-bullying, encourage mental wellness, reduce mental health stigma and prevent substance misuse.

On Dec. 9, 2019, the Okaloosa County School Board unanimously voted to put a Hope Squad in every school under their district! Immediately, Eglin Federal Credit Union stepped up to become the Title Sponsor and made a $50,000 contribution to help launch the program after the first of the year. We need your help! We need your sponsorship, end of year or first of year contributions to help us reach our $300,000 goal, and to help us create awareness. We need the opportunity to speak at your events. We even need a donated office space in the Fort Walton Area!

Visit us at www.bringhopenow.com to learn more and to download a free resource on recognizing the signs of suicide and to add your name to our mailing list to be notified when events are taking place. Email us at U4GCHS@gmail.com or call Peggy Brockman, Executive Director, at 850-259-8356 for more information on how you or your company can help make our dream of saving lives by bringing Hope Squad to every school in our district a reality. EVERY LIFE MATTERS! Join us in bringing hope to students and their families.