Children and Youth Cabinet addresses growing youth suicide trend, minority mental health care
First Lady Casey DeSantis chairs the cabinet. Image via Twitter.

casey desantis
Youth suicide is an alarming trend in the Sunshine State.

After alarming trends in youth suicide, the state’s Children and Youth Cabinet met to discuss progress on preventative measures.

The number of youth suicides has been steadily increasing in Florida over the last 20 years, according to data from the Department of Health.

Cabinet members met Tuesday to discuss the progress of a workgroup the cabinet launched to address youth suicide and stigmas surrounding mental health in minority communities so that “all children in Florida grow up safe, healthy, educated and prepared to meet their full potential,” said Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Simone Marstiller.

The workgroup was organized by the AHCA and made up of doctors, university faculty, health industry professionals and Surgeon General Scott Rivkees.

Workgroup members determined in the short term a statewide media campaign to create awareness should be implemented using funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Another recommendation from the group was to create networks through faith and community-based initiatives where families can receive education about, and referrals to, mental health care resources. Marstiller said this could be done quickly through Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Faith and Community-based initiative already in place.

Members of the workgroup also suggested, in the short term, to improve mental health professional training related to reluctance of minority community members to engage with care.

For long term improvements, workgroup members suggested partnering with the University of South Florida. That partnership would help create a compendium of resources to deal with stigmas around mental health in minority communities and among youth, develop strategies to normalize mental health communication by talking with youth and minority community members about what causes mental health issues, and engage universities, professional licensing boards and other professional organizations to provide outreach to minority communities and youth.

Marstiller pointed out the recommendations “highlight the power of peer support and faith-based initiatives in normalizing conversations surrounding mental health.” Marstiller said peer support works particularly well with young Floridians facing mental health issues.

Marstiller also said in order to solve the issue it’s important, especially in minority communities, to understand why the stigma around mental health exists in the first place.

First Lady Casey DeSantis, chair of the Children and Youth Cabinet, pointed to an initiative already in the making through the Department of Education (DOE) that will help “empower” Florida’s students in an effort to change the narrative around mental health “to one of resiliency and hope.”

“We do not want our kids feeling like victims. We want them to feel empowered to be able to make a difference in their own lives,” the First Lady said.

That initiative, said DOE Division of Public Schools Chancellor Jacob Oliva, is an online toolkit called CPALMS. The resource creates “resiliency” by building skills like responsibility and organization through activities such as gratitude journaling.

Oliva said the toolkit has courses for students and resources for teachers so students can learn how to apply those skills across different subjects.

“We shouldn’t just assume that students walk into our classrooms with these skills. These are skills that need to be taught and expanded upon,” Oliva said.

To build on the CPALMS initiative the State Board of Education plans to launch a tool to deal with “character education and substance abuse standards,” DeSantis said.

“I think Florida is really leading the nation when it comes to this, in a way, and really framing it by empowering our students to be resilient just by having hope and positivity,” DeSantis said.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown covers state government for Previously, Haley covered the West Virginia Legislature and anchored weekend newscasts for WVVA in Bluefield, W.Va. Haley is a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Florida. You can reach her at [email protected].


  • Tom

    July 27, 2021 at 8:15 pm

    Yes, the First Lady and America’s Governor have provided funding through the legislature to assist in this cause. The First Family hosted an event about this earlier this year. Don’t tell the media as they only want to discuss Covid. The Dums are to busy with the bill board hate campaign. That’s important to them.
    Thank God for this Governor and First Lady.

    • Cap

      July 28, 2021 at 6:25 pm

      She doesn’t do anything worthwhile, she is just a so-called soothing presence to counter her husband’s surly attitude and poor people skills. Her initiatives are a joke and provide little substance to the issues at hand. Gov. DeSantis already cut mental health services the for LGBTQ community, who make up a good junk of youth suicides. The fact that the First Lady gets to chair this cabinet is a joke and a total knee cap to the Lt Governor, who should actually be handling this, or a more competent official. We didn’t vote for this Duckface to elected office, so she should know her place and stop wasting taxpayer dollars.

  • Tom

    July 29, 2021 at 7:42 pm

    Hey Cap, you pathetic loser, you wouldn’t talk that way in person to her er or anyone else.
    Thur both have done a great job on an issue that you and your party posed upon society,

    • Cap

      July 30, 2021 at 4:26 pm

      I am actually an independent, but sure, blame “my party” for problems Casey nor the governor don’t actually care to solve. And yes, I would tell that aging prom queen to her face that she is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Her “work” is nothing but smoke and mirrors and does not amount to any tangible change — and these are problems BOTH parties are responsible for.

  • Tom

    July 31, 2021 at 9:22 am

    Mrs. DeSantis and the Governor are trying to address a tough problem that the Other party proffers public policy towards. The Gov has spoken multiple times on need to re open society not close it so as to minimize this issue.
    Spare us your self rightness. She is doing a fine job trying to high light. Like I said, you wouldn’t age if you dud you would get socked! Deservingly.

    • Beth

      August 1, 2021 at 1:00 am

      Are you being paid by the DeSantis reelection campaign or what? DeSantis and his wife may be admired by Trump supporters, but the rest of us aren’t sheep to their shady behavior and bad policies.

Comments are closed.


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