Safer Homes, Suicide Aware: Kick-off disperses free life-saving material to Grays Harbor families

They trickled in on World Suicide Prevention Day, families with young children, Seahawks fans, men in camouflage, churchgoers, and passersby. Many were drawn by Franklin Field’s perimeter, which displayed the Safer Homes Memorial’s 1,129 headstones.

Aberdeen residents took home approximately 120 free life-saving items: Safer Lock, SnapSafe Lockbox, Life Jacket Locking Firearm safety cases, and medication disposal kits – as well as Forefront’s LEARN™ suicide prevention cards.

“This is the information that could have saved my son’s life,” said suicide prevention advocate Kathleen Gilligan during the ceremony that started the day. Her son Palmer was “well versed in firearm safety, and we went to the range twice a week. He took all these safety classes, but suicide was never mentioned.”

Melissa Fisher, left, and Kathleen Gilligan, right, talk with Grays Harbor residents about firearm safety devices. Memorial headstones along the fence are red for firearms, white for suffocation, and yellow for poison. Forefront photo.

The Safer Homes, Suicide Aware campaign originated two summers ago in conversation among regional leaders. On Sept. 10, the idea came full circle – coupling a powerful safety message with suicide prevention tools for community members.

Gilligan volunteered at the firearms station distributing SnapSafe Lockboxes and Firearm Life Jackets. Nearby, Ilan Kariv, well-known owner of Grays Harbor Guns, demonstrated use of the Life Jackets with a handgun and long gun.
“This public education campaign is extremely important. Many do not realize that 80 percent of firearm deaths are by suicide,” said Alan Gottlieb, Second Amendment Foundation founder and executive vice-president.

Gun safe raffle cements importance of firearm safety

“This is a very important subject for me,” one participant said, as he bought raffle tickets for a Bighorn Classic gun safe. “I believe in the right to bear arms – I’m carrying a firearm right now. I knew a young man whom I loved like he was my own son. A few years ago, he killed himself with a gun.”

Ken Halvarson of Aberdeen won that Bighorn safe. He and his wife have lost several friends and relatives to suicide, he said. The Halvarsons came to the event to learn more about how to help their community. Raffle proceeds will go toward suicide prevention training in the county.

“Grays Harbor has had more suicides than in many other counties – and fewer options for people to get assistance when they have suicidal thoughts,” said Lynn Kessler, who opened the morning’s ceremony. “Safer Homes is a key step to expanding these options.” Kessler is a former legislator and now a Forefront advisory board member.

Rep. Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam) led a prayer for all who struggle with suicidal thoughts. He also set a goal for the Safer Homes initiative: “Every fire starts with a little spark,” he said. “Safer Homes is that spark, which will help others to save families from grief.”

“Talking about suicide can be the most important thing you do,” said Rep. Tina Orwall (D-33), who has championed Washington state’s suicide prevention bills together with Forefront Suicide Prevention. “As the parent of a troubled teen, I wonder if one day I’ll have to have that conversation. We know a lot of families struggle in our state.”

Many needs served

Whether participants owned a stable of firearms or none, took many meds or not even aspirin, most understood the need for safer homes.

“Overdose on medications has run in my family for a long time,” one woman said. She made a beeline for the medications station, where David Yamashita and Sigrid Reinert explained how to use the medication disposal kit: Add the expired meds plus warm water, and shake. Amanda Kerbrat was one of the volunteers to demonstrate SaferLock, a medications container with a four-digit combination locking cap.

At the final station, participants found Laura Philip and Debbie Reisert with information about the five-step LEARN™ intervention that anyone can use if they’re concerned about a loved one.

Media stories about Safer Homes, Suicide Aware:

Forefront event held Saturday at Franklin Field to promote efforts to prevent suicide

Kessler, Hargrove, others speak at suicide prevention event at Franklin Field

Sunday event puts bright lights on suicide 

Suicide prevention initiative set for statewide launch in Aberdeen

Grays Harbor residents: Did you miss this event? Grays Harbor Guns will continue to give out free SnapSafe and Life Jacket Firearm Locking Devices.