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Century High School demonstrates ' Sources of Strength' suicide prevention program

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

Students at Bismarck’s Century High School gave a demonstration to Governor Jack Dalrymple and First Lady Betsy Dalrymple of a program to prevent youth suicide.

The program is a peer-to-peer effort among students.

Mark LoMurray of Bismarck came up with that program. He says it was borne of frustration.

"In three years, I went to 30 teen funerals," LoMurray told the students. "And I walked away from that going, you know, what we’re doing is not working.”

So, LoMurray designed “Sources of Strength.” Student leaders receive training and mentoring from adult advisors. They encourage students to seek help – and to develop strengths in their lives.

Here are comments from some of the student leaders.

“At CHS, we want to let people know that seeking help is a norm. It’s not a taboo, and everyone goes through challenges.”

“We have people who are in sports, in music, in different clubs, people who aren’t in clubs, things like that. They’re nominated by their teachers – and they’re leaders in friend groups and things like that, to pull them in, so we can reach everyone in the school, not just a small group of students, so everyone can be heard. And everyone can know to get help and where to get help.”

“And we learned in our training to be connectors, not counselors. Kids know they can go to us for things – they can talk to us, but we’re more there to connect them so they can get help. They come to us to find out where to go or who to talk to. And we can guide them there, so they can get professional help.”

“And we try to engage isolates. One in eight kids at Century are considered isolates. They can’t name a friend, and no one names them as a friend.  Isolates are two times more likely to commit suicide, and four times more likely to get bullied. Our messages are always to help spread hope, help and strength.”

“I like that concept.” said Gov. Dalrymple. “We’re asking students to help us identify their friends and fellow students who may be at the early stages of getting into trouble with their self-esteem.”

Since LoMurray began “Sources of Strength,” the program has become nationwide. He says last year, his organization trained 15,000 students as peer leaders.