In 2015, 1,129 Washington residents died by suicide—the second leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 44.
Next month, volunteers from Forefront—a UW School of Social Work suicide-prevention advocacy group—will erect headstones on the lawn in front of the Washington State Capitol, one for each of those lost lives. Colors in the visually striking memorial will reflect different manners of death: red for firearm, white for suffocation, yellow for poisoning or prescription overdose, green for jumping or cutting and blue for other means of ending one’s life.
On Feb. 16, the suicide prevention organization will host a day of events in Olympia and join with partners — including firearms dealers, veterans’ organizations, pharmacists, health care providers and suicide attempt and loss survivors—to advocate for two legislative bills as part of Suicide Prevention Education Day.
Activities include a ceremony of remembrance and hope at the memorial from 11 to 11:30 a.m. on the Capitol lawn with speeches by legislators, suicide loss and suicide attempt survivors; lunch and a program on legislative priorities at the Governor’s Mansion from 12:15 to 1 p.m.; and a suicide prevention awareness training at the Woman’s Club of Olympia from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
“We will have volunteers and staff at the memorial all week to provide support and suicide prevention education. Seeing it can be quite emotional for people, so many of whom have been touched by suicide,” said Forefront co-founder and faculty director Jennifer Stuber, a UW associate professor of social work whose husband died by firearm suicide in 2011.
“We’re going to drive this social movement forward, and we won’t stop until the memorial is down to many fewer headstones,” she said.