Sources Of Strength

Emily Zimmerman, Reporter

     Teenage suicide rates have been steadily increasing over the past couple of years. In Hawai‘i, suicide is the number one cause of death for those aged 15 to 24 (calculated in deaths per 100,000 people). MHS Behavioral Health Specialist Charnay Gima wants to address this situation by developing a new program called Sources of Strength.

     “We polled all the students based on surveys and what we got back was at least 50 percent of the students felt connected to a teacher and then also in the sense of belonging, 40 percent of students felt connected to the campus,” said Gima. 

     Based on these surveys, half of the student body does not feel connected to the school. This lack of connection can lead to loneliness and, in severe cases, depression. Sources of Strength, a national suicide prevention program originally set up in North Dakota in 1998, will hopefully decrease that percentage and help students feel like they belong at MHS.

     The program will be a student-led organization that spreads positivity and awareness about mental health over the campus. Thirty one students from MHS have been chosen to be peer leaders and will begin training in February.

     “We realized we needed a change,”  said Gima who, along with the school administration staff, felt that good mental health can lead to an improved school environment. “The change needs to come from the students. The change can’t come from the school.” 

     The students chosen to be part of the program come from diverse backgrounds. According to Gima, that’s where the change comes from: social networking. Peer leaders from the program talk to their friends, their friends talk to other friends and so on, creating a ripple effect of positivity. 

     “I feel that Sources of Strength is an important thing to have at our school because a lot of teenagers go through an immense amount of stress throughout their high school career and many don’t feel connected to the adults that support us here,” said Sophomore Rain Hashimoto, one of the students selected to participate.

     Sources of Strength does not only target suicide prevention, it also is an anti-bullying and substance abuse prevention campaign. “I am choosing to become a part of Sources of Strength because, one day, I’m hoping their mission of bringing hope will be a movement on campus,” President of the Student Alliance for Mental Health and Wellness Club (SAMHW) Senior Megan Ogasawara said.

     The club was also a driving factor in bringing sources of strength to MHS. “Sources of Strength empowers youth and teachers to be able to provide coping mechanisms and overall support for one another. No student should have to live life alone,” said Ogasawara.

     Other schools across the island are also participating in Sources of Strength, including Nanakuli High School, Waianae High School, Kahuku High school, Moanalua High School and University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. More information on Sources of Strength can be found at or by contacting Charnay Gima at [email protected]