Making a Difference: Developing Gatekeeper “Training of the Trainer”

Earlier in 2023, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention published a report highlighting the worsening youth mental health crisis, calling for urgent action and increased investment in school-based prevention programs. Schools serve as vital lifelines to help struggling youth. (Here is some additional reading!:;; and an episode from my favorite heath policy podcast! .) Wanting to contribute to such initiatives, I began working alongside Project Fleur de Lis staff to empower such positive social change. As a non-profit organization deeply committed to school-based mental health services for survivors of trauma, our primary goal was to develop a suicide prevention program, called “Gatekeeper Training of the Trainer,” aiming to empower elementary, middle, and high school counselors and school psychologists to facilitate Gatekeeper Suicide prevention training for their own teachers and faculty. 

My role in the project began with extensive research, delving into existing suicide prevention training programs with an adult education focus to gather insights and best practices. One of my first key contributions was creating materials that would allow our pilot program to continually be assessed and improved through its first year, including a pre and post-test for attendees. I was also involved in research for our program manual, which included materials from our existing suicide prevention programming, Gatekeeper training, and risk assessment training, guidance on non-stigmatizing language related to suicide and mental health, as well as insights into the epidemiology of youth suicide, especially among vulnerable populations like youth of color or identifying as LGBTQIA+. 

Our Gatekeeper Training of Trainers flyer with all the information for attendees.

Title page for our manual given out to attendees.

Brief overview of what is included in the program.

Our first pilot program finally launched on 9/28/23 after nearly 12 months of discussion and planning. The first training was a significant milestone, with nine attendees representing four schools from the community. This was a testament to the progress we had made in building the program, despite the logistical challenges and administrative barriers that often slowed our pace. This first training was undoubtedly the most rewarding part of the project. The discussion was rich with a diverse range of personal and professional experiences in the mental health space. The conversation was empowering and inspiring. Hearing others’ perspectives and ideas regarding youth mental health made it a learning space for everyone, including myself, and it was enlightening to connect with individuals so passionate about addressing the public health issue of youth suicide.  It was heartening to witness the commitment of community members and school mental health professionals who shared our passion for youth mental health and concurrently contributed to the health of New Orleans youth through their own initiatives. All attendees are required to conduct at least one Gatekeeper suicide prevention training for their school faculty in this upcoming school year, and I am excited to stay engaged in the project by observing and obtaining feedback from these trainings to continually reassess and improve our program. 

An excerpt from the program manual regarding the importance of person-centered, non-blaming, non-shaming language.


Circles are a core practice in the work of Project Fleur de Lis, acting as an intentional and inclusive space where connection and safety is the priority, especially when discussing a topic like suicide. This simple, yet powerful, component of the program allowed each attendee, facilitator, and student (me!), to be welcomed as equal collaborators.

While still in the middle of this project, the collaborative nature of positive social innovation projects became increasingly apparent in the past 6 months. States across the country are increasingly funding and focusing on school-based mental health services for our youth, and I am proud to be part of one in the state of Louisiana. 

This project in suicide prevention was undoubtedly a transformative experience, reaffirming my commitment to advocating for youth mental health. I hope to continue such work as a career dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of struggling youth. With the right programs and supportive services in place, we can help our youth flourish and make a meaningful impact on the public health of our future. 


If you’re struggling, it’s okay to reach out for help. Call, text, or message 988 for free and confidential support. You are not alone.