While the suicide deaths of beloved celebrities such as Robin Williams hit hard at our collective emotional psyche, most people who attempt or succeed at taking their lives are not famous. Very likely some of them live (or have lived) right in your community.
Two years ago, Washington became the first state in the U.S. to enact legislation requiring that mental health professionals be trained in suicide prevention. The effort was spearheaded by Jennifer Stuber, co-founder of the nonprofit Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, and state Rep. Tina Orwall (D-33rd district). Stuber lost her spouse, Matt Adler, an international attorney and father of their two young children, to suicide.
Forefront will hold its annual celebration on Tuesday, September 30, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at The Mountaineers Club, 7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle WA 98115. Food and beverages will be provided by Vios Café and other local vendors. Seattle-area musicians Gina Salá and Mari Earl will perform. Salá is a teacher, vocalist and composer who specializes in sound healing. Free admission; donations requested. Reserve at intheforefront.org or, more directly, here: http://bit.ly/Vy0e3H
Last year, Forefront helped advocate for passage of another piece of legislation, which improves the capacity of schools to identify and intervene with students who struggle with emotional issues and suicidal thoughts. Forefront is also involved in training school personnel to develop school crisis plans that include responding to suicidal behavior. For information visit intheforefront.org.
And in March of this year, Gov. Jay Inslee signed HB 2315, which makes Washington the first state to require suicide-prevention training for doctors and nurses. Stuber calls the bill “perhaps the more forward thinking response to the problem of suicide in the country.”
Sue Eastgard, MSW, training director and other co-founder of Forefront, founded the Youth Suicide Prevention Program of Washington State in 1999 and served as director for a dozen years. She has trained more than 1,000 professionals and grad students over the past year, and develops and customizes assessment and treatment programs as well. For more information, visit Sue Eastgard, MSW.
Eastgard is one of three people to be honored at the event. She will receive Forefront’s inaugural training award for outstanding service in suicide-prevention training. In addition, Dr. John Osborn of Spokane will receive the Tina Orwall Policy Award for his pro bono work promoting passage of HB2315, and Jacob Jones, a staff writer for the Inlander in Spokane, will receive the Washington Mental Health Reporting Award for his series on how the criminal justice system handles people living with mental illness.
Here are some current statistics about suicide:
- In Washington, about 1,000 residents die of suicide each year; the suicide rate here is 15 percent higher than the national average. Nationally, suicide rates are highest in the West, followed by the South, the Midwest and the Northeast; 39,518 people took their lives in the U.S. in 2011, or 12.7 deaths per 100,000 population.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth age 15-24. Male-identified individuals are almost four times as likely to complete suicide as female-identified people, although the latter attempt suicide at higher rates. Across the population at large, suicide is the 10th cause of death.
- Groups with higher than average suicide rates include members of the military, Native Americans and Alaska Natives, those suffering from mental illness or substance abuse (or both), and people identifying with the LGBTQ community.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 800-273-8255, the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which will connect you with local phone support.