A New Youth Suicide Prevention Program

What’s New in Psychology?

A New Youth Suicide Prevention Program   

Jim Windell


           Suicide rates among young people were increasing – even before the pandemic. In fact, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the second leading cause of death for children, adolescents, and young adults ages 15 to 24.

           A majority of children and teens who attempt suicide have a significant mental health disorder – usually depression.

            While many communities grapple with suicides by young people, it’s not an issue that people feel comfortable talking about. “We’ve got to break through the stigma and really confirm to people that it isn’t just okay, but it’s acceptable and necessary to talk about mental health,” says Scott Poland, Ed.D, a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s School of Psychology. “We’ve made progress over the last few years and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the discussion, but more must be done.”

            Recognizing that more needs to be done, Poland and his graduate students from NSU will be rolling out a new program that directly addresses the need for awareness to help stem the tide of mental health struggles and youth suicide.

           The new program is called STEPS (School Toolkit for Educators to Prevent Suicide). STEPS will be shared across Florida – thanks to a three-year grant from the Florida Blue Foundation. Poland, who is also the director of the Suicide and Violence Prevention Office at NSU, and his students will train 500 administrators or school mental health professionals each year for the next three years. After the training, each participant will receive a 186-page toolkit which Poland has developed.

           According to Poland, “School personnel and adults must know how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and work as a team to secure the needed supervision at school and at home.” He added that “Schools have an important role to play in suicide awareness and prevention, along with parents and community-based services.”

           “Our mental well-being is just as important as our physical health,” said Susan Towler, executive director of the Florida Blue Foundation. The Florida Blue Foundation enables healthy communities by making grants, building coalitions and embracing solutions that create a meaningful impact in Florida communities.

           “Helping young people understand the value of good mental health and reducing the stigma associated with getting help can truly transform their lives and future,” Towler said. “NSU’s STEPS program equips those working directly with a community’s youth with the training and tools to support them during troubling times in their lives. We are eager to support their efforts as they expand the program to engage with more schools across the state.”

           Poland believes that not only do schools have an important part to play in helping to  prevent youth suicide, but he also thinks “the majority of youth suicide can be prevented if everyone knows the warning signs of suicide.”

           To read more about the STEPS program, go to



           The Toolkit can be viewed by clicking here

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