UW Today

September 6, 2016

Forefront marks World Suicide Prevention Day Sept. 10 with workshops, documentary film

News and Information

Every one of us has a role to play in preventing suicide, say organizers with Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, based in the University of Washington School of Social Work and led by Professor Jennifer Stuber.

As a reminder of that truth, Forefront is participating in World Suicide Prevention Day Saturday, Sept. 10, by offering suicide prevention workshops in two locations and the premiere of a powerful short documentary film about a Vashon Island teen lost to suicide.

Stuber, Forefront’s co-founder and faculty director, said the film and workshops both underscore a public health warning as simple and lifesaving as “buckle your seat belts” — that firearms and other potentially dangerous items in the home, such as prescription medications, should be stored safely and away from children.

LEARN is a suicide-prevention curriculum designed by the UW Forefront group.

LEARN is a suicide-prevention curriculum designed by the UW Forefront group, who will offer workshops at the UW and on Vashon Island on Sept. 10, World Suicide Prevention Day.Forefront

The 10-minute film, called “Thunderstorm in My Brain,” was produced by Stuber with David Friedle, a film instructor and recent graduate of the UW College of Education’s Danforth Program. It tells the story of the life and death of Vashon Islander Palmer Burk, who died at the age of 14 from a self-inflicted gunshot four years ago — and discusses how to prevent similar tragedies from happening to other families.

The film will premiere in a free screening at 1 p.m. at the Vashon Theatre, 17723 Vashon Highway SW, in Palmer’s hometown. Space is limited, so registration is requested.

The screening will be followed by a question and answer session with Stuber and Friedle, and will conclude with a suicide prevention training session on how to tell if someone is at risk for suicide and what to say and do if that is the case.

Also, from 10 a.m. to noon the same day in Room 305 of the School of Social Work, Sue Eastgard, Forefront co-founder and training director, will give a two-hour workshop focusing on five skills that can help prevent suicide, from a Forefront curriculum called LEARN. Briefly put, these are how to look for warning signs, empathize and listen, ask directly about suicide, remove possible dangers and know what to do next. Space is limited for this, too, and registration is requested.

Eastgard said, “It is Forefront’s belief that most suicides are preventable and that anyone can learn to recognize the warning signs for suicide, as well as the resources for helping a person in emotional distress.”

The film is a personal project for Stuber, who lost her husband to firearm suicide in 2011. She said she worked on it during a sabbatical, glad for the opportunity to do something “outside the box.” Friedle was a filmmaking teacher for Seattle Public Schools looking to make a film focusing on social issues who met Stuber and decided to use his filmmaking skills for her suicide prevention efforts.

“As we dug into the issue, it became very clear that in order to help prevent suicide we needed to reframe the gun safety debate as a public health issue,” he said. “The statistics around the use of guns for suicide are staggering.”

Friedle said he and Stuber want to use the film to spark conversations about suicide prevention in the hardest-hit areas of the state, particularly rural communities. They also feel it important that gun owners see the film.

“Thunderstorm in My Brain” has been accepted to the Ellensburg Film Festival and is under consideration by others. Its Vashon showing is co-sponsored by the Vashon Alliance to Reduce Substance Abuse and the Vashon Theatre.

“This is not an easy topic, but there is hope in the progress that we are making,” said Stuber.

“And for me the film hits home — if you do nothing else the safe storage is so, so critical, particularly if you have children in the house. Also, attending suicide prevention training is another thing you can do to play a role in suicide prevention.”

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For more information, contact Friedle at 206-650-4310 or david.friedle@gmail.com; Stuber at jstuber@uw.edu; or Eastgard at 206-543-1016, eastgard@uw.edu or ffront@uw.edu.

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