Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide was founded in 2005 by two friends who lost teenaged children to suicide. After their losses, the men were shocked to learn that suicide was the third leading cause of death for America’s youth at that time and were determined to do whatever they could to protect other families from the devastation of suicide. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death for youth age 10 – 24. Several of their close friends and golf buddies including Todd Cohen, Jerry Grasso, Tom Lanning, and Bob Agel helped them form the organization and joined the Board of Directors. They recruited Maureen Underwood, a Clinical Social Worker and nationally recognized expert in youth suicide prevention, and Jeannine Grasso, Principal of Roselle Park Middle School in Roselle Park, New Jersey, to their board. The combination of business savviness and knowledge of evidence-based mental health practices enables SPTS to work quickly, efficiently, and decisively to develop and implement youth suicide prevention programs at both the state and national levels.
After learning there was no requirement for teachers in their home state of New Jersey to receive formal training in suicide prevention, the board made it their mission to have legislation passed in New Jersey requiring all educators to complete at least two hours of instruction in suicide prevention as part of their professional development requirement. The successful passage of this legislation in 2006 made New Jersey the first state in the county to require such training.
In addition to seeing the legislation passed, Maureen helped to develop the actual training program. Making Educators Partners in Youth Suicide Prevention is a user-friendly, free online course that has been approved as best practices by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and has received praise from over 375,000 educators throughout the United States who have completed the course. SPTS has developed and presented in person presentations to over 17,000 additional educators across the country. Assuming that most of these educators has direct contact with at least 25 students, over 9.375 million students may have been impacted by the positive lessons these educators have received about identifying and reaching out to students at potential suicide risk.
In early 2015 SPTS developed a Youth Council to engage interested youth as ambassadors in the prevention process. These students collaborate with SPTS staff and volunteers to work on suicide prevention projects, learn resiliency and helping skills, all while functioning in an advisory role to the agency programming that is aimed at youth. The Youth Council meets for two hours, once per month, September through May, for focused comprehensive workshops that provide awareness and education based on help-seeking behaviors, coping skills and risk factors through dynamic and integrated activities and engaging guest speakers. Youth Council members have the opportunity to facilitate event planning, social media campaigns, and PSA awareness announcements. All Youth Council activities are approved and supervised by SPTS Clinical Director, Susan Tellone, RN, BSN, CSN, MSN. All meetings are located in participating schools and are monitored and managed by the aforementioned Council leaders. There is no cost to attend the SPTS Monmouth County Youth Council. Beverages, snacks, and dinner are provided at every meeting.
The core values that define SPTS and its founding board are:
- Passionate commitment to the value of life.
- Belief in the effectiveness of evidence-based suicide prevention strategies.
- Dedication to removing public stigma about suicide.
- Conviction that accurate information and education about suicide can save lives.
Family & Support Services
Behavioral / Mental Health
Crisis / Safety
Last Updated: 01/02/24