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Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention

Cultivating opportunity and healing for fellow veterans
Mark Oravsky, right, and Brent Erwin tackle a project at Victory Farms, where veterans work side by side to regain their sense of purpose, build a solid sense of identity and develop strong community roots. (Jo Arlow Photography)

Forefront’s grassroots network of suicide prevention advocates includes military veterans who are helping their fellow vets, whose risk of suicide is significantly higher than the general public’s.  For example, Mark Oravsky is cultivating opportunity and hope at Victory Farms.  

By Lisa Wahbe

Mark Oravsky was not born a farmer, he hails from Trenton, NJ. And while he has learned a great deal about soil, the art of agriculture and the future of farming, that is not why he wakes up in the morning. He wakes up to help others who may not always be able to help themselves. Specifically, he feels driven to support other vets and first responders who have yet to find their way. And though he is firmly grounded on his current path, his route was circuitous.

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“Our lives are built around stories. It’s the fabric of society,” says Tom Skerritt, whose Red Badge Project helps Wounded Warriors use storytelling to explore their emotions and heal invisible wounds. (Photo by Katie M. Simmons)

By Lisa Wahbe

We sit down on a comfy couch with a cup of tea. Tom’s cat slinks easily from his lap to mine and back again as we begin to talk about his work with military veterans. After a few poignant comments, the Forefront supporter quickly transitions to art, a subject where he clearly feels at home. He explains it’s all storytelling, whether it’s through Van Gogh’s painting of southern France or acting. He feels one can measure the success of an artist by how many people the artist has touched. 

While he doesn’t profess to indulge in the analysis, Tom Skerritt has thoughtfully reflected on his art and life: He speaks about taking risks, “making good and not-so-good” choices and learning from them. He speaks about being in this game of life together.

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Huskies for Suicide Prevention Awareness (HSPA) exceeded their highest expectations with their 2016 community event to "Walk, Talk, Break the Stigma" with 707 participants and more than $8400 in donations. (Photo by Jonathan Miao)

Mary Giles works in the west campus area of UW Seattle, noted for its heavily trafficked pedestrian thoroughfares such as The Ave and Northeast 45th Street. Every day she sees students walking around, “utterly absorbed in their electronic devices and showing no particular need to interact with a passerby like me.” Learning that the UW has lost 20 students to suicide since the fall of 2009 was a revelation to Giles, a UW staff member, as was the fact that 1 in 4 college students have a diagnosable mental illness. On the UW campus, that adds up to nearly 11,000 students. Giles saw students in a new light, suggesting that “these tech-savvy, fast-moving youth are at least as vulnerable as we students were 40 years ago.”

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Insights Blog

Insight Blog

Jul 06, 2016 -- Three recent encounters left me musing about the importance of empathy and emotional well-being in the lives of those we love and touch. We all meet proud parents. Parents whose joy in their children shines like an aura. In my travels, I crossed paths with such a parent recently. As we... more
Jun 30, 2016 -- Most of us know that State Rep. Tina Orwall has been a strong voice in Western Washington on suicide prevention.  Now The Seattle Times, the largest daily newspaper in Washington, is citing that advocacy in endorsing Orwall for re-election to her 33rd Legislative District seat. The... more
Jun 17, 2016 -- Upon returning from the Mental Health America annual convention in Washington, D.C., I am inspired by seeing and meeting and hearing from so many people working to change the conversation about mental illness and suicide.   I moderated a panel called "Reporting of Mental Illness —... more

First Person

First Person

We need better mental health resources for our kids
By Matthew Thompson, M.D. A teenage boy has had a fight with his sibling that included choking and threats. The teen tells his parent that he felt bad about the fight, but everything lately has been building up. He feels like he wants to kill himself and shares some disturbingly... more
Understanding why adoptees are at higher risk for suicide
By Maureen McCauley Evans, M.A. Most people view adoption as a happy, even blessed, event. A child finds a new family: nothing but joy, right? Adoption can be happy, a blessing, joyful. For some adoptees, though, adoption is complex, and can be filled with as much loss as love.... more
78 years after Hans Maier’s death, his legacy is recalled, renewed & honored
I never met my grandfather, Hans Maier, who died before I was born as a result of suicide in 1937 when he was 49 years old.  I was surprised and amazed when I learned that so many years after he “gave up on his life,” his legacy was being honored in Frankfurt where he had lived and worked... more

Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention