Speaking up to save lives

Forefront, a UW-based organization, teams up with Facebook in the name of suicide prevention.

Be a world of good

Facebook users share countless details about their personal lives, from where they’re going on vacation to what they’re eating for dinner — and occasionally, feelings of dark despair, even thoughts of suicide.

As the world’s biggest social network, with more than 1.39 billion users, Facebook is uniquely positioned to provide online resources and support to help suicidal people. That’s the goal of a new collaboration between Facebook and researchers at Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, an interdisciplinary organization based in the University of Washington’s School of Social Work.

If the author of a reported post is thought to be suicidal, a series of screens will be launched to offer help.

If the author of a reported post is thought to be suicidal, a series of screens will be launched to offer help.

Working with Forefront and other mental health experts, Facebook enhanced its suite of tools to support suicidal people and tell those who see and report suicidal posts on Facebook how they can help. When someone sees a post that suggests its author might be considering suicide, they can click on a dropdown menu and report the post to Facebook.

Read the full story on UW Today

Profile: Stephen Paul Miller, ’12, ’14

Stephen Paul Miller

Operations Manager, Forefront
B.A., Medical Anthropology and Global Health
M.S.W., Administration and Policy
Nonprofit Management Certificate, Evans School of Public Affairs 

Social justice through access: The core of Stephen Paul Miller’s mission is making sure everyone has access to the support they need — be it to fund education or fight suicidal thoughts. For his undergraduate honors project on college affordability, Stephen, who himself benefited from the Husky Promise, worked with a dozen low-income, minority and first-generation high school seniors — and helped all 12 get into college. Later, while earning his Master of Social Work, he worked in the UW School of Social Work admissions office, helping others find the resources they needed to attend college.

Inspiration after tragedy: Stephen’s focus in graduate school sharpened when he met Dr. Jennifer Stuber, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, who lost her husband to suicide in 2011. After this tragedy, Dr. Stuber paired with UW alumna Sue Eastgard (M.S.W., ’88) to establish Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, a multi-disciplinary organization at the UW. Soon, Stephen, who had lost a friend and college classmate to suicide, began working with Forefront.

Germination to implementation: Forefront launched in September 2013 and has since grown significantly, but Stephen became involved months before that, initially by helping write a grant proposal to implement suicide prevention protocols on the UW campus in Seattle.

What matters: The School of Social Work has provided Forefront with office space on campus and other resources to support the organization’s endeavors, and all who are involved are extremely grateful. “It’s definitely shoestring,” Stephen says. “But that’s what makes it exciting. Office space isn’t what matters; what matters is the mission.”

Strength and tenacity: “The thing that really touches me is the loss survivors’ ability to heal and transform despite tremendous grief,” says Stephen. “Many of the people who help with Forefront — volunteers, board members, donors, folks whose lives have been touched by suicide — have a fierce tenacity to heal and to make meaning out of tragic loss.”