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April 27th, 2009
STEPS - Using Technology to Find Troubled Teens

* Teen STEPS is now open to the public, no access code needed! Visit Teen STEPS @

That’s the theory behind STEPS – Screening, Treatment, and Education to Promote Strength – a first-of-its-kind virtual mental health initiative for teens and their parents.

Created by New York University’s Christopher P. Lucas, an Associate Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, STEPS aims to reduce risk of suicide and school violence through online education, self-help and screening. The voluntary, school-based program features a Web site for both teens and parents accessible at school or at home. On each site, visitors can find scientific information, chat around the clock with online clinicians and with each other, and participate in a confidential suicide questionnaire.
Since its launch last fall in two New York high schools, STEPS is already showing signs of success – with membership numbers nearly doubling. Lucas says he hopes the program will attract at-risk teens not only with its wealth of information, but also with its edgy style and interactive features.

“STEPS is really the result of seeing what works and what does not work in the suicide prevention field and really trying to leverage the power of technology and the way that teenagers relate to each other,” says Lucas.

While STEPS is currently being studied in only five schools in New York State, Lucas and his colleagues hope  to introduce STEPS to at least a dozen high schools by the end of this year.  They believe that successful intervention with teens who are at risk can be achieved by improving the mental health of an entire student population.

“The goal at the end of this is to get people to seek help,” Lucas says.

  • Nathan

    It wasn’t irresponsible of PBS to provide the information about Steps. It should have been more clear about who can access the website. Please see Kristin Dietz Trautman comments above. There needs to be more schools looking out for the welfare of are children. Zero tolerance for bullying. End victimization now. Thank you PBS.

  • Donna

    Thanks for allowing my daughter to think she found a site that would help her. You NEVER should have broddcasted “Cry For Help” if the web site wasn’t going to be available to everyone, it’s people like you at PBS who really have NO clue about mental health issues, or they wouldn’t have broadcast this.

  • Lane

    Since the Steps website is not available to everyone, I would like to find some available website teenager might find help. Let’s all do some research and post our findings. Steps may not be available, but there could be something use out there!

  • Lane

    WOW! :) That’s what I get for watching TV and attempting to type at the same time. If that previous post was confusing to you, here’s the revised version:

    Since the Steps website is not available to everyone, I would like to find some available websites that teenagers might find helpful. Let’s all do some research and post our findings. Steps may not be available, but there could be something else useful out there!

  • Emily

    i would like the access code… the program nmade it sound so easyto get helpit was oinspiring, i just tryed to make an account and i need an access code first… plz help?

  • Janet

    I watched this documentary with great personal interest. I’ve been extremely depressed since about age 13-14, I’m now 50. I have one son who has inherited this problem. I am just now getting relief with the right medications, which must be finely tuned. I have many times contemplated suicide just to be free of the mental anguish. I wish that I had been on medication when this first began, but it was not understood in those days. I am a proponent of medication b/c I had no idea what it felt like to be relaxed, no idea how to turn off the terrible feeling of impending doom. If you are feeling this as a young person or adult, talk to someone, preferably someone with some knowledge of depression and the seriousness of it. If you go to church, talk to your youth director, if not, talk to a trusted adult, take a friend with you if you feel uncomfortable. The Bible says God knows every hair on our head and He loves us more than we can comprehend. Ask God to help you. As far as bullying, talk to your school counselor, talk to the principal, talk to the president of the student body, find a trusted teacher, just don’t keep it to yourself, If you have a problem with depression, you could possibly have ADD or ADHD as a coexisting condition, in which case you, yourself may have already developed a “reputation” with the teachers. Again, find someone who will really listen to you, a youth director in a church is an excellent place to start. There is usually at least one teacher or coach, most times more, who really do care about kids. Go on line, there are some resources listed at the top right hand corner of this page, or maybe a page back. I clicked on these and there was some helpful info there. The very best advice I can give you is to go to God and ask Him to help you, He’s always available 24/7.

  • Violet

    STEPS is a great improvement on the programs such as Teenscreen that just hand out a questionnaire for kids to fill in. It’s geared towards kids of today, using technology as a medium to reach us. I just hope that lack of funding doesn’t mean that the project ends – a common cause in today’s world for things like this to disappear. We need this .. our kids need this!

  • lolie

    i would like the access code too

  • angie

    I heard is a great website. its for everyone any where, you dont need an access code.

  • tina

    how does one get this for a high school near you?

  • Paula Dixon

    I too would love to get the access code, how do you get it? I took this one step further and I sent this to the school cousellor of our highschool, I think that it’s that important. It is my belief that every child has a right to live with dignity, and have positive feelings about themselves, Our soceity has created so many barriers to self esteem. We can’t cure the world but we can definately help our own kids. If We all did that we would reach a whole soceity. Our kids are worth it.

  • Eileen German

    I think that if PBS puts a show on TV, then everyone in the viewing area should be able to gain access to it, otherwise, don’t air it.

  • Isabella

    i know its so silly if they air it we should be able to acess it

  • Chelsea

    I agree with the consensus of the comments. It was highly irresponsible to broadcast this information without clearly explaining that the program “STEPS” is only available to some areas of NY. I sincerely hope that those who are looking for help find it and that those who have ideas share them. I also believe that it would be in the stations best interest to give a formal apology to the viewers and members of opb. It would also be responsible to give alternative options and ideas for help. Please dont give up if you are looking for help, it is out there.

  • Debra

    You have to check with you childs school and see if they are participate in the study. They should give you an access code; this is just what I understood when I started reading on this a little more. I too, would like to access this sight and will be calling my sons school today.

  • Susie Clark

    Hat’s off to PBS for opening my eyes. I did not realize just how many teens go through such deep feelings of depression. There is always help. Sometimes a friend’s mom, or a faith-based teenage program can help by just listening to you at first. Good programs such as STEPS are still new and being tested. The good things are worth waiting for. Hang in there you young people!!

  • Gregory

    Ms. Trautman,

    When you say expand to “other areas”, would that include middle schools as well as other locations? Or is the STEPS program targeted at high school students only?

  • richard manning

    I am very saded that PBS would air such a sensitive subject and make people think that they to can get help for there young ones.Steps sounds like a great program and it is a shame that all young people cannot get access to something that could help them.I got my daughter in front of the computer and told her i have something that might help you. I explained what it was and she was excited about it and when we are not able to accsess it we were both disapointed.This is a progam that all should be able to acsess.

  • Turning Winds

    I’ve checked out the site and registered. Helpful information for parents. Thanks.

  • troubledteens

    Troubled teens camps assist teens to leave bad behavior with an efficient approach to disturb and stress teens. There are many teens development programs towards good influence and help them to go for right path.

  • kathy Novak

    Have the problems with Accessing the site been fixed?? I am a therapist and find the above 50 comments most disturbing.

  • Kristin Dietz Trautman

    As the Associate Director of STEPS, I just want to let everyone know that we are working very hard to make the program widely available. As I am sure you all know, funding for public health programs is particularly tight these days and our initial grant from NY State to pilot the program has expired. If anyone wants to help us secure funding and increase access to STEPS, please contact us at We will also welcome teen and parent consultants as we plan for expansion and making the program the best it can be.

  • Brant Umi

    It is not PBS’ fault that the STEPS program is unavailable to everyone. PBS’ function is to report objective information which they did in “Cry for Help”. It is the the responsibility of the individual, be it a teenage or a parent of one, to seek mental health services. Those services are available in each community to some degree or another, and in some states better than in others. Also, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI at which was mentioned in the program offers free sevices to affected individuals and their loved ones. Teen suicide, and suicide in general, is a serious problem that requires active involvement from as many people as possible by lobbying for better mental health services in our communities and by volunteering when able to help others.

  • Julie Kingston

    I have not watched the documentary but have been reading peoples comments and think it is safe to say that there are many parents and young people struggling with not only issues related to suicide but a variety of mental health related issues. It is wonderful to see so many wanting to connect with others, with helping organizations, with resources in an effort to help themselves or others. Social media offers people the ability to ask questions and seek advise when they may not otherwise do so. Many of the comments have referenced sites and pages that can point someone in the right direction. Do not forget, there are help lines, support groups, professionals and emergency rooms in most communities…we need to make sure that we access the resources that we have available. As parents, we also need to come together to address the issues that increase risk for suicide, substance misuse, and other mental health issues…bullying, underlying substance use issues, depression underage drinking and drugging, prescription drug misuse, abuse, neglect, …the list is endless. We need to reach out to one anothers and learn the signs of depression, of suicide risk, of drug/alcohol use…we need to take responsibility for our own behaviours and to learn how to help ourselves and children. The STEPS Program seems excellent, however until we all have access to this or similar supports we cannot afford to sit and wait..we need to get active.

  • Germaine Clinkscales

    I am a high school teacher at Denby High School, Detroit Public Schools and I would like some information about the STEPS program.

  • Tomika Diprima

    I have a family room that is lower than rest of house. It is a concrete slab. This room is cold from the knees down. It appears that your product should help.Questions:

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