Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Education, Ed.D.


College of Education



First Advisor

Jerry McGuire, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Anne Grey, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Sonja Vegdahl, Ph.D.


This phenomenological study examined the lived experiences of six helping professionals, or gatekeepers, who serve the same community and in their professional roles have been professionally exposed to an adolescent suicide cluster. The purpose was to explore a fresh perspective, to uncover similarities between the participants’ experiences, and to better understand the effects that teen suicide has on helping professionals. The three-part interview design did achieve data saturation, and the multi-phase analysis stimulated the emergence of five distinct themes: adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) as a root cause, a description of the at-risk teen population, short-term crisis response, long-term stabilization, and helping professionals’ means of coping with adverse gatekeeper experiences (AGEs). The results of this study are significant and demonstrate: (a) how a group of gatekeepers, from a variety of service industries, perceive the cluster phenomenon, affected teen group, and prevention efforts; (b) how this study’s participants have been similarly impacted by adolescent suicide; and (c) how they have remained dedicated to protecting and developing healthy youth.

Keywords: Suicide, adolescent suicide, teen, at-risk, susceptible, suicide cluster, victim, survivor, aftermath, crisis response, coping, gatekeeper, helping professional, phenomenology, lived experiences, adverse gatekeeper experience.