The Hope Institute helping Arizona students fight suicidal thoughts

The Hope Institute says they build a therapeutic framework for suicide-specific assessment and treatment of a patient's suicidal risk. Sarah Robinson reports.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 11:17 AM MST
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CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- The start of the school year is supposed to be an exciting time for kids and families. However, for a Chandler couple, it’s been full of heartache.

Ryder Lower sadly took his own life last month, just one month before his 17th birthday. Ryder switched to a smaller school for his junior year, attending Arizona College Prep while going through treatment for clinical depression. His parents say he was well-liked and a star lacrosse player who was being recruited by several colleges.

Unfortunately, these stories are becoming more and more common. The Chandler Unified School District has seen a drastic increase in student suicides in recent years. The district hopes a new partnership with a local treatment center can help save lives.

The Hope Institute is the first of its kind in Arizona. It’s an intensive outpatient clinic solely designed to treat suicidal thoughts. The treatment center only treats patients who are students in the Chandler school district. Right now, the clinic offers next-day appointments for evidence-based suicide treatment. A referral is required. Usually, a student would need to tell their teacher, guidance counselor, or parent they are having suicidal thoughts in order to be evaluated by the Hope Institute.

A Chandler couple is mourning the loss of a teen who died by suicide and they hope sharing his story will prevent more loss of life.

Once a student is admitted, the institute provides short-term outpatient care ranging from six to twelve weeks. It includes four to five weekly individual counseling sessions, group therapy, and intensive outpatient programs. So far, it’s had great success, and the team of therapists and doctors has a track record of reducing suicidal thoughts in six weeks or less.

But the first two months after the start of school is one of the most common times students die by suicide. This month’s goal is to ensure students know effective treatment and, hope is there, and suicide is not the answer.

The clinic helps students by equipping them with helpful tools in hard times. “A lot of times, we are looking at distress tolerance skills. Being able to stop, pause, sit with those feelings when hard things come up. Being able to observe those feelings rather than taking them as fact. We teach them ‘riding the wave,’ letting our thoughts and feelings come like a wave,” said Lindsay Taylor, the clinical director of The Hope Institute.

After about six weeks of successful treatment, the student is discharged from the program and referred to weekly therapy to maintain their remission of symptoms and continue improving their quality of life. The clinical director says the therapists have seen great progress among students already.

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