Thursday, March 27, 2014


Colorado-Based Entrepreneurial Suicide Prevention Initiative Launches National Expansion

Denver, Colorado.  March 28, 2014.  While the majority of suicide deaths occur in working aged adults, the journey often begins in youth with suicidal thoughts and suicidal behavior. When a teen dies by or attempts, the impact is devastating and long-standing, and the ripple effects on family, friends, schools and communities profound. For these reasons, the 
Carson J Spencer Foundation takes an “upstream” approach to this challenging public health issue with its FIRE Within program. The FIRE Within program, a partnership among the Carson J Spencer Foundation, the Second Wind Fund and Junior Achievement, is a teen leadership initiative that engages high school students to use entrepreneurial strategies to alleviate root causes to student distress. In other words, students create an innovative business that raises both money and awareness for suicide prevention and mental health promotion. With a significant investment from the Adolph Coors Foundation, the program expanded from three to 50 schools in Colorado from 2011-2014. In 2012, the Carson J Spencer Foundation received additional funding from the Manhattan-based Ittleson Foundation to scale the program nationally. During 2013, the Carson J Spencer Foundation hosted multiple Executive Roundtable sessions around the country to gauge community interest in the program and narrowed down the pool of possible locations to eight sites. After a six-month feasibility study, the Carson J Spencer Foundation announces today that the pilot effort for the national expansion will include testing the program’s viability in New York City, San Francisco, and Massachusetts starting September 2014.

For more information on the FIRE Within visit:

To achieve this pilot effort, the Carson J Spencer Foundation is collaborating with the Mental Health Association of New York City (MHA-NYC), the Mental Health Association of San Francisco (MHASF), Riverside Trauma Center (Massachusetts), and the Cape and Islands Youth Suicide Prevention Project (Massachusetts). Each of these “hub partners” will implement the FIRE Within program in three or more schools when the school year begins next fall.

“MHA-NYC is proud to be a part of the national launch of the FIRE Within program, an innovative and effective social entrepreneurship approach to educating and supporting young people to address suicide prevention in their communities,” said Lisa Furst, Director of Public Education, MHA-NYC.

“The Mental Health Association of San Francisco is thrilled to be partnering with the Carson J Spencer Foundation on the first implementation of FIRE Within in California,” said Eduardo Vega, Executive Director of MHASF. “Diverse metropolitan communities like ours that are challenged by youth suicide need solutions that actively engage youth and empower them by putting them in the driver's seat to make an impact on their peers. The unique entrepreneurial approach of the FIRE Within develops leadership and creativity while it engages young people to support each other, to work as change agents in nontraditional ways, and to challenge stigma associated with mental health conditions.”

Over the full academic year, the FIRE Within program gives students the opportunity to understand firsthand how business can positively impact a community. They learn about innovation and business skills, they build capacity for suicide prevention and mental health promotion, they use needs assessment tools to uncover the root causes of student suffering, and then they put it all together and launch a business that generates profit while alleviating the drivers of distress.

“Riverside Trauma Center is extremely excited about collaborating with the Carson J Spencer Foundation on the FIRE Within program,” says Larry Berkowitz, Director of the Riverside Trauma Center. “This ‘outside the box’ approach to youth suicide prevention builds leadership skills, connects local businesses with the young people in their communities, and promotes recovery. This creative program will support Riverside’s efforts to reduce the impact of suicide and suicidal behaviors among youth in Massachusetts.”

Maura Weir, Coordinator for the Cape and Islands Youth Suicide Prevention Project of the Community Health Center of Cape Cod adds, “The decision to partner with the Carson J Spencer Foundation was made because of their great leadership and because the FIRE Within is a dynamic program created for young people to get involved with a very worthy cause.  Suicide prevention is everyone’s business and this program will provide a strategy to do this with high school aged youth.” 

For more information about how your community can get involved with the FIRE Within contact Sally Spencer-Thomas or visit or


About the Carson J Spencer Foundation - Sustaining a Passion for Living
The Carson J Spencer Foundation ( is a Colorado nonprofit, established in 2005.  We envision a world where leaders and communities are committed to sustaining a passion for living. We sustain a passion for living by:
  • Delivering innovative and effective suicide prevention programs for working-aged people
  • Coaching young leaders to develop social enterprises for mental health promotion and suicide prevention
  • Supporting people bereaved by suicide

The Carson J Spencer Foundation is the proud 2013 recipient of the “Small Nonprofit of the Year” award from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

1 comment:

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