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Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention

Helping vets recognize courage through storytelling
“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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Volunteers set up Forefront’s #1111suicides2many installation on the Gonzaga University campus in advance of the March 11 Zero Suicide Inland Northwest Conference and Training Day. (Photo by Satish Shrestha)

A bold new way of talking about suicide prevention is sweeping the suicide prevention landscape. Health and mental health care systems are aiming to reduce the number of suicides by people receiving their care to zero. Not cut rates by half. Not by a quarter. Eliminate the ways for people to fall through the cracks in those systems.

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Insights Blog

Insight Blog

May 19, 2016 -- I found out my husband Matt died by suicide, five years ago, at 9:30 in the morning. I had just dropped off my 5-year-old son at school. Nobody in my life had ever died this way before. I was in shock. I had no idea what to do. My chief concern at that grief-stricken moment was... more
Apr 25, 2016 -- Efforts to reduce suicide rates in Washington State, including a new law on which Forefront collaborated on with the state NRA and others, could not come at a more important time. After a decades-long decline in the U.S. suicide rate, it has risen to a 28-year high, according to a new study from... more
Apr 15, 2016 -- A new research study suggests that something as simple as regular, personalized letters following a short term of therapy can help individuals at risk of repeating an attempt at suicide. Swiss researchers tested the Attempted Suicide Short Intervention Program (ASSIP) with approximately 120... 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