With veterans’ mental health issues gaining increasing attention nationwide, Boeing has awarded a $205,000 grant to Forefront Suicide Prevention at the University of Washington.
The award will help support Forefront’s Safer Homes, Suicide Aware campaign, expand veteran-specific outreach that addresses the needs of Washington veterans, their family members, and the providers and institutions that serve them.
Safer Homes, Suicide Aware, launched in September 2017, seeks to raise public awareness of suicide and offers people immediate steps they can take to make their homes safer. Research has shown that a temporary barrier between a person in crisis and a chosen means of suicide can be lifesaving.
Trained volunteers from Forefront, based at the UW School of Social Work, engage attendees at gun shows and community events to ask about their firearm and medication storage practices, assess their level of awareness about suicide prevention, and offer free firearm and medication locking devices. The Safer Homes campaign also offers online suicide prevention training for firearm retailers, gun safety instructors, pharmacists and medical professionals, and distributes informational materials at gun dealers and health care providers across the state.
“This grant from Boeing allows us to be in communities all across Washington, and meet veterans where they’re at,” said Forefront director and co-founder Jennifer Stuber, an associate professor of social work.
Across the United States, veterans experience higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and are at higher risk of suicide than civilian adults. A 2014 study found that nearly one in four active-duty service members suffers from a mental health condition.
With the support from Boeing, Forefront plans to:
- visit more gun shows and community events around Washington to expand the Safer Homes, Suicide Aware campaign;
- distribute its online All Patients Safe training, which contains a module on veteran-specific risk and protective factors and an understanding of veteran culture, to providers working in community-based settings to serve veterans for free;
- Increase suicide prevention training and resources to community and technical colleges that serve large numbers of veterans.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that firearms are involved in half the suicides in the U.S. Poisoning is the third most common form of suicide.
“As suicide rates creep up, the need for collaboration with as broad a scope of partners as possible becomes ever more apparent,” said Brett Bass, program coordinator for Safer Homes.
Veterans and their families are among Chicago-based Boeing’s priority focus areas for philanthropy. The company’s Global Engagement Strategy describes how the company can support service members’ transition back to civilian life through workforce training, and recovery and rehabilitation programs aimed at physical and mental health, and suicide prevention. Veterans represent about 15 percent of the company’s workforce.
The grant announcement was part of a $55 million package to more than 400 community organizations.
“Our people have unique skills and an unwavering passion for making a difference in the world, both through our products and services and the ways we give back to our communities,” Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said in a press release. “When that’s combined with our professional networks, partnerships and financial resources, we have the potential to drive positive, lasting change across the globe in important areas such as STEM learning and veterans’ support.”
Founded in 2013, Forefront aims to reduce suicide by advocating for legislative change and helping individuals and communities take action. Its other major programs include Forefront in the Schools (curriculum, training and outreach for K-12 teachers, staff and families) and its Higher Education initiative, which works for mental health resources and awareness at the university and community college level.