Preventing Suicide Workshop

Timely two-day workshop shares best practices in the face of sobering statistics.

By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 15, 2012) – More people die from suicide – the most preventable cause of death – than in car crashes. 


“Suicide is often preventable,” said Stephen Roggenbaum, assistant in research at the University of South Florida’s Department of Child and Family Studies.  “We need education, awareness, and the tools for us to help those we know who may be at risk.” 


For those who want to help, when it comes to school-aged children in particular, Roggenbaum is conducting a two-day workshop with colleague Katherine J. Lazear, Oct. 30 and 31, on “Youth Suicide Prevention: A Community Approach.”


“Although suicide is a rare event, it happens too often,” Roggenbaum said. “Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people 15 to 24 years old. Most individuals - 90 percent - who take their lives have a diagnosable mental health issue or substance abuse disorder. We designed the workshop to help address community’s concerns about youth who take their own lives. The pain, sorrow, suffering and questions left behind only add to the tragedy of a life lost to suicide.”


The workshop will run each day from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the College of Behavioral and Community Science, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, 13301 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Room MHC 2527, Tampa, FL 33612. The registration fee is $175. To register, click here.


Throughout large and small group discussions, conference participants will be presented with the latest research-based information, engage in experiential exercises and be part of sharing ideas. 


“This is the perfect atmosphere for assessing and planning a comprehensive, public health approach for suicide prevention,” Roggenbaum said. “We’re often too busy just putting out fires and doing our best to function on a daily basis. The workshop format provides great synergy and an opportunity for participants to glean ideas from others and to become familiar with resources. With new ideas, resources, plans, and strategies in our cache we can all be more effective in helping young people and connecting them with additional assistance when needed.”


Attendees will receive copies of The Youth Suicide Prevention School Based Guide 2nd ed. and The Youth Suicide Prevention: A Community Approach Workbook.  


“We’re delving into very sensitive territory that may touch deeply on emotional issues and perhaps someone’s personal experience with themselves, family, or friends,” Roggenbaum said. “So we will not only provide support if needed but we will also follow-up in two months with a group debriefing/status call.”


A webinar on suicide prevention Roggenbaum presented with Lazear, Saving Lives: A Framework for Suicide Prevention in Schools, is available online as part of Community Solutions at the University of South Florida.  They are the authors of the Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide.  

“School settings offer a tremendous opportunity to help save lives,” says Roggenbaum.  The webinar explored a valuable resource not only for educators but for anyone who is engaged in, or interested in assessing, developing or expanding youth suicide prevention efforts in schools.


Affiliated with USF’s College of Behavioral and Community Science, both scholars have accomplished a great deal in this area. 


Roggenbaum is one of four gubernatorial appointments to the Florida Suicide Prevention Coordinating Council, and is a member of the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition and Pasco Aware suicide prevention task force. In addition to teaching a class on suicide studies at USF and making numerous presentations at local, state and national conferences, Roggenbaum assisted with creating the Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide. It was accepted for the Suicide Prevention Resource Center's Best Practices Registry (BPR) for Suicide Prevention funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2008. In 2007 and 2008, he was an invited member of an American Association of Suicidology (AAS) task force to help develop the School Suicide Prevention Accreditation Program, and designed an online suicide prevention training module for Florida's involuntary commitment facilities' staff.


Lazear is a social and behavioral researcher with CFS. She has focused on training, consulting with and evaluating community systems of care for children’s mental health through case study methodologies and mixed methods design.  Her projects include the Child and Family Experience of the Mental Health System study, the SSI Family Impact Study, and the Family Experience Study for the Children's Mental Health Initiative grant communities. She was also the project director for the Leadership Initiative, co-developer of the Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide, the Florida Youth Suicide Prevention Report to the Legislature and serves on the LGBTQI2-S National Workgroup for System of Care.


Roggenbaum and Lazear concentrated on what goes into assessing youth suicide prevention efforts.

“We wanted everyone who participated in this webinar to enhance their understanding of a public health approach for suicide prevention, intervention, and ‘postvention’ – which is a critical time in any situation. There are options we helped familiarize them with as well as ways to expand suicide prevention activities. We talked about these in the context of the Youth Suicide Prevention School-based Guide because it has so much to offer.”


In a recent talk on the topic to USF ROTC, Roggenbaum, who has served as principal investigator on a number of grants related to suicide prevention, tried to raise awareness of suicide risk and protective factors but also identified the National Lifeline number that has been adapted with a special military focus. Anyone can call the National Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) to discuss concerns about themselves or another who might be at risk for suicide. Military members can call the same number and press “1” to be connected to specially trained staff in the area of military suicide risk.


Community Solutions webinars are archived for online access.  For more information, or to register for a webinar, click here or visit  Past topics include family-to-family peer supports, early childhood mental health, community-based participatory research, the Affordable Care Act and linking primary care to mental health.


Upcoming dates for future webinars include Oct. 30, with CFS Research Associate Professor and Division Director Sharon Hodges and CFS Research Assistant Professor Kathleen Ferreira on Thinking Systematically: Six Lessons of System of Care Implementation; Nov. 15, Running from Foster Care: Strategies for Assessing and intervening with Youth Who Run Away from Foster Care Placements, with CFS Research Assistant Professor Kimberly Crosland and CFS Assistant in Research Ruby Joseph; Dec. 4, How do we know what is happening at the practice level in systems of care?, with CFS Assistant Professor Mary I. Armstrong; and Dec. 19, Asking Families: How Data from Families can Inform Policy and Practice with Lisa Lambert, executive director of the Parent Professional Advocacy League in Boston. All are at 2 p.m. EST. And all can be accessed online within the following days.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.