Free Youth Suicide Prevention Program In Monmouth County High Schools

Mental Health Association of Monmouth County (MHAMC) will be bringing Lifelines, a comprehensive suicide awareness and prevention program, to Monmouth County high schools at no cost beginning this fall. MHAMC is dedicated to youth suicide prevention and creating competent, compassionate communities that can respond as well as help to prevent suicides across the life cycle. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for New Jersey youth age 10 to 24. With a recent increase in suicides in Monmouth County, MHAMC is taking the lead, in partnership with Prevention First, on providing school communities the necessary tools they need to identify at-risk youth, information on how to initially respond, and to rapidly obtain help for them. Providing seed money for the project and training for local staff are Scott Fritz and Maureen Underwood from the Suicide Prevention Resource Fund (SRF).

In 2003, Monmouth County resident Scott Fritz lost his daughter to suicide and has been working with schools and communities nationally for over 11 years to prevent suicide and raise awareness on prevention and intervention. He collaborated with Maureen Underwood, a licensed clinical social worker who is a nationally recognized expert in the field and the author of the Lifelines Trilogy. Lifelines, which is recognized on both the Best Practices Registry and the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), is a whole-school program. The goal of the program is to create a competent school community where all members care about each other’s welfare and know where and how to get help if a community member is in need. The program educates everyone in the school community on the facts about suicide and their roles in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. It focuses on help-seeking skills and the identification of trusted adults as critical recourses for youth of all ages.

“As a community, we want to be able to identify those at risk and provide a prevention toolkit to help reduce the incidence of youth suicide,” said Wendy DePedro, executive director, Mental Health Association of Monmouth County. “We all need to partner and work together to stem these tragic losses.”

MHAMC is coordinating with Prevention First in this effort. Mary Pat Angelini, CEO of Preferred Behavioral Health (Prevention First), said, “The fact that we are talking about this topic is very important, because this is something that, years ago, was not discussed. Suicide affects the entire community and effective prevention initiatives have to be a community effort.”

To learn more about Lifelines please email mha@mentalhealthmonmouth.org or call (732) 542-6422.