Wisconsin’s first Hope Squad founded at BCHS

Hope Squad aims to reduce negative stigma around suicide and help struggling peers


Dominic Bauer

Members include (from left to right, bottom to top row): Jahnavi Hansaria (‘22), Christy Sun (‘22), Maika Olveda (‘22), Radhika Ramesh (‘22), Julia Fernandes (‘20), Ava Anderson (‘21), Anel Robinson (‘21), Matthew Wagoner (‘20), Chan- dra Chouhan (‘20), Anja Logan (‘20), Hannah Huntley (‘22), Emma Basel (‘21), Megan Cottreau (‘22), Nicole Beliveau (‘22), Rayyana Hassan (‘21), Shaun Hughes (‘21), Warren Treis (‘20), Niyati Hansaria (‘21), Mary Grace Blake (‘22), Emily Busch (‘20), Liam Flatley (‘20), and Charlie Uczen (‘20). Not pictuerd: Zach Clark (‘21), Will Whitaker (‘20), Emily Schmit (‘21), and Ryan Flatley (‘22). Hope Squad advisors are Ms. Katrichs, Mr. Groh, and Mr. Bauer (not pictured).

A community of friends, trust, and support; hope squad is team that’s there for anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide. Hope Squad, which stands for hold on, persuade, empower, began in Utah and has spread across the world. The Elmbrook School District is proud to be the home of the first Hope Squads in Wisconsin. Last month, Brookfield Central recognized Hope Week by wearing gold and spreading positivity through the building. With activities like this, Hope Squad aims to create a positive student network to show that no one is alone.

Members of the team hope to raise suicide awareness and spread positivity, which was shown through their various fundraisers and by leaving kind messages throughout the school. The messages show that it is good to ask for help and that there are people who will listen. Maika Olveda (‘22) says “Hope Squad just wishes to help the community by not letting someone end their life, and letting them know that they matter.” In addition, Hope Squad focuses on highlighting major issues students face, best stated by Ms. Jennie Katrichis, one of the group’s main advisors. “Hope Squads work to foster a positive culture of care, promote suicide prevention/awareness and mental wellness, work to reduce mental illness stigma, and empower help-seeking behaviors.” Giving students an opportunity to seek help, and for peers to notice when another person needs it is a crucial part of the group. Additionally, many people confuse Hope Squad with REDGen, our school mental health awareness club. However, the main goal of REDGen is to build skills to cope with stress and mental health.

Initially, Hope Squad became a necessity after Brookfield Central experienced the loss of too many students to suicide. A survey showed that students were more likely to talk about their struggles to a friend than an adult. Yet, adults were the ones being trained to react instead of students. With Hope Squad, the team of students are able to proact and prevent the events from happening in the first place. Once again, Ms. Katrichis explains that “Hope Squads offer that peer-to-peer layer of support. They are ‘the eyes and ears of the school’, and are trained to recognize warning signs when a student is in distress.” The members themselves are chosen through a survey that asks students who they trusted, and through those connections, we all help build a stronger community.

Hope Squad also helps tear down stereotypes and stigmas around suicide, depression and mental illness. For example, Olveda explained that as a member of Hope Squad “even asking if someone is thinking about suicide doesn’t spark the idea in their head that they want to die.” To have such an impactful team is a step towards having a “Culture of Care” in Brookfield Central, but to be able to fully achieve a culture of care, us, as students must show “kindness, compassion, respect, be inclusive, and accept and embrace diversity” and be a friend. To show Hope Squad support, donations are always welcome. For more information, feel free to talk to a Hope Squad member or to Ms. Katrichis. Urgent matters should be reported to the Waukesha County Crisis number (262-548-7666) or the Brookfield Police Department’s non-emergency number (262-787-3700).