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Button will lead the expansion of JED’s High School Program, which provides schools and districts with the necessary tools to strengthen their mental health and suicide prevention policies and programs.
Seasoned clinical psychologist Suzanne Button has joined The Jed Foundation (JED) this summer as senior clinical director of High School Programming. She will lead efforts to help JED expand its high school programming to reach more than one million students across the U.S.
Similar to JED’s signature JED Campus program, JED High School will utilize a Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for High Schools, which provides high schools and districts with a framework to improving existing policies, programs, and systems to support and improve student mental health, reduce the risk for suicide, and prepare students emotionally for the rigors of and transition out of high school.
“Suzanne’s deep level of expertise in adolescent mental health as well as the multiple aspects of the high school setting is invaluable to helping JED conceptualize and implement programming to help high schools strengthen their mental health and suicide prevention safety nets for students,” says JED’s CEO and Executive Director John MacPhee.
Throughout her career, Suzanne has played a fundamental role in the success of adolescent mental health and emotional wellness programs. She has utilized her clinical expertise at Astor Services for Children and Families where she began as the clinical coordinator of the Astor Home for Children. While there, Suzanne served as director of Program Improvement for the full network of Astor Services and later was promoted to executive director of Quality and Clinical Outcomes where she led the efforts to innovate and optimize the organization’s programmatic services in order to effectively support patients and their families.
Over the course of her 20-year career, Suzanne expanded her impact by providing consultative services to private schools, public school districts, and treatment service systems for youth, and provided direct clinical care using evidence-based treatment for adults, adolescents, children, and families.
Most recently, Suzanne worked with the Transformational Collaborative Outcomes Management (“TCOM”) team at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. As a TCOM policy fellow, Suzanne led a New York State collaborative initiative providing training, coaching, and consultation to providers of complex care management services for high need youth. In addition, she consulted providers of mental health and educational services for youth and adults at the national and international levels.
Suzanne holds a degree in psychology and biology from Hunter College of the City University of New York. She earned a Master’s of Education from the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, and then completed her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia’s School of Arts & Sciences.
We spoke with Suzanne about her new role at JED, the critical issues facing high school students, and more.
What excites you about the mission of The Jed Foundation and your new role?
The roots of JED’s mission lie in a passionate commitment to helping adolescents and young adults. I can relate deeply to that passion from personal and professional experience. As an adolescent, I struggled to manage challenges at home while keeping a strong face on at school, and know first-hand how caring adults and systems can turn the path of a teen with challenges around. As a professional, I have worked to support youth and to transform systems for many years and have rarely encountered the deep intelligence reflected in JED’s multi-level approach to enhancing and protecting the emotional well-being of young people.
I feel such gratitude for the opportunity to learn from and build upon JED’s longstanding success with college campuses in my new role. The High School Programming Team can build upon JED’s understanding that educational systems are complex, committed to the youth that they serve, and juggling intensifying demands and thin resources. Mental health challenges for teens and resource challenges for high schools have only intensified during this year of life-changing events, and JED’s commitment to infusing its work with compassion and equity is needed more than ever now.
What is unique about high school students that drives your interest in this demographic?
I find that the complexities and challenges of working with teenagers call me to a higher standard of creativity, presence, and genuineness in my clinical work, and demand a high degree of responsiveness, curiosity, flexibility, and humor from the systems that serve them.
The adolescent mind is poised to learn and is filled with passion and energy. At the same time, teens are juggling unique social and developmental stressors and are often experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression for the first time. This complexity drives the need for nuanced supports that integrate the importance of peer relationships, engage families while respecting the path to autonomy that motivates teens, and respond dynamically to the shifting needs of teens as they become more independent.
I appreciate that teens are growing their adults up as they grow and change and value that impact on my own personal and professional growth.
Because of this complexity, adolescents must experience adults and systems in which they develop as deeply respectful, creative in the engagement and support strategies, and highly collaborative. Teens tend to hold the adults around them accountable in what can be challenging ways, and working with teens successfully keeps adults and systems honest and self-reflecting all the time. I appreciate that teens are growing their adults up as they grow and change and value that impact on my own personal and professional growth.
How will your background in school psychology benefit you in your new position at JED?
High schools are among the most critical of developmental contexts for teenagers, and my years of consulting to different schools has taught me how challenging it is for schools to juggle the intense needs of the teens they are educating with the tension of policy demands versus limited resources. My work in schools also has shown me how passionate secondary educators are about the youth they teach and how responsive educators are to any idea that aligns with their commitment to teens. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with teachers and administrators on multiple innovative initiatives and have learned firsthand that capacity building in high schools calls for a deep respect of the knowledge and talents of the educators in those high schools.
What is one thing you look forward to accomplishing with JED and the new High school program?
It is hard to choose just one thing! The JED High School Programming Team is growing, and the energy of a talented new team building an impactful new initiative is exhilarating. I know that our High School Team will have a real impact on the social and emotional climates of high schools across the country; I am looking forward to facilitating that work and supporting that impact.
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