With more than 350 people in attendance, the second annual Littleton Public Schools We Are Stronger public forum featured national mental health experts and local high school students. Held at the South Fellowship Church in Littleton, the evening highlighted the district’s Sources of Strength program, is designed to harness the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying, and substance abuse.
Hosted by LPS students Floren Kahn and Melica Pourarfaie, the evening’s speakers included Nate Thompson, Director of Social, Emotional and Behavior Services at LPS, Dr. Anna Mueller from the University of Chicago, Scott LoMurray, national deputy director of Sources of Strength, and 11 students from Heritage, Arapahoe, Littleton and Options high schools. The students shared personal stories about their own struggles with anxiety and depression and how they manage their mental health issues, while the national speakers cited current research and the importance of building strong connections. By the end of the evening, more than 80 people had signed up to volunteer and support the Sources of Strength program through LPS.
Sources of Strength is one of many interventions implemented in LPS over the years to promote mental health, including training for staff and students in suicide prevention, increased the number of mental health staff in schools, implemented small advisory groups and the Safe2Tell system, and added social emotional learning in elementary schools. The LPS Foundation has even created a special program to pay for mental health treatment for any student or family who has a need.
“It takes a conscious effort to remind ourselves that there is so much good in this world, so many people who care, and we have so much to offer each other’” said Nate Thompson. “That is exactly why it’s so important to spread the message of hope and strength with the same intensity as we know can happen with fear and sadness. Somehow, we must each do our part to change the culture of drama and trauma that seems to have overtaken our society. What we know is that nothing can match the power of what peers can do for each other. This is why the Sources of Strength model is so important.”