UW Today

June 11, 2015

Greater suicide prevention efforts coming to rural Washington state

Washington state’s rural communities with the highest suicide rates soon will get more resources to help with prevention training and support.

Washington Women’s Foundation is giving Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention $100,000 for suicide prevention in six underserved rural communities. The foundation announced the grant Wednesday at its annual award celebration.washington women's foundation logo

“Receiving the award is a dream come true,” said Jennifer Stuber, Forefront co-founder and faculty director. “We have always known that if we want to reduce the suicide rate in Washington, there needs to be a strong focus on rural communities. This award allows Forefront the opportunity to significantly expand its outreach.”

The grant will enable Forefront, an interdisciplinary organization based in the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, to bring suicide prevention training to professionals and lay people in six underserved rural communities and expand its grassroots network to offer greater assistance through Forefront Cares bereavement support, and policy and media outreach.

Forefront will reach out to 10 sparsely populated counties — in some cases combining adjoining counties — in all four corners of the state. It hopes to hold three trainings on the state’s coast and Olympic Peninsula, and three more in southeast, northeast and north central Washington.

Its multi-pronged approach will address a number of the factors that contribute to higher suicide risk in rural areas, including isolation, stigma and lack of access to mental health care.

Reaching professionals like doctors, nurses and teachers will make a critical difference, especially in rural areas that are far from mental health facilities, supporters say.

“If people on the frontlines know the risk signs and how to respond, there will be more opportunities for people to reach out and find help,” said retired state Rep. Lynn Kessler of Hoquiam and a Forefront advisory board member.

Over the two-year life of the grant, Forefront plans to train about 1,260 individuals, including policy advocates, grief-support volunteers, school staff and health care professionals. The grant also allows communities to receive technical assistance and support from Forefront.

“Forefront submitted a compelling proposal to our membership. Their comprehensive and sustainable approach to suicide prevention will certainly have a positive impact on rural communities in Washington state. We are proud to support their work,” said Washington Women’s Foundation President Beth McCaw.

Forefront advances innovative approaches in suicide prevention through policy change, professional training, campus and school-based interventions, media outreach, research and program evaluation in Washington state. The organization recently partnered with Facebook to provide online resources and support to help suicidal people.

“I am thrilled to see Forefront’s innovative work recognized and advanced,” said Edwina S. Uehara, dean of the UW School of Social Work who helped represent Forefront at the ceremony. “This generous grant will enable one of the school’s outstanding research and innovation centers to reach the rural areas of our state with its powerful evidence-based suicide-prevention programs.”

The Washington Women’s Foundation Pooled Fund Grant Awards are determined annually by a vote of the foundation’s full membership. Its 500-plus women members have invested $15 million of their own resources in nonprofit organizations over the last 20 years. Membership is open to all women interested in philanthropy.



For more information:

Matt Taylor
Forefront executive director
taylor15@uw.edu, 206-543-1016 (office) or 406-5440-7305 (mobile)

Sue Lockett John
Forefront communications
suej@uw.edu or 206-919-9677

Megan Davies
Washington Women’s Foundation director of programs and communications
megan@wawomensfoundation.org, 206-407-2174

Lynn Kessler
Retired state representative (24th Legislative District) and former executive director of the United Way of Grays Harbor
kessler24@aol.com, 360-533-1944