March 27, 2018

A recent Scientific American editorial singled out Washington state as the only state in the nation that requires all health care workers—not just those in social work or mental health fields—receive suicide prevention training. “More states should follow in Washington’s footsteps,” declared the popular science magazine.

Washington’s leading role in suicide prevention is due in large part to the efforts of Forefront, a School research and innovation center. Since 2012, Forefront has worked with the state legislature to help craft innovative laws mandating suicide prevention training for more than 160,000 mental health and health care professionals. The training requirement reaches to dentists, pharmacists and naturopaths as well as doctors and nurses.

There are now more than 60 state-approved suicide prevention courses, ranging from three to six hours, available to all healthcare professionals in the state. In the last five years, Forefront has worked on behalf of six suicide prevention bills that have been enacted.

“It’s not just mental health professionals who have a role in suicide prevention, it’s all professionals,” said Jennifer Stuber, associate professor and Forefront policy director. “True success is rooted in saving lives. That’s the long-term vision.”

In citing Washington’s national leadership in requiring comprehensive suicide prevention training, the magazine’s editors noted that nationally, “few doctors and less than half of U.S. mental health professionals are trained in suicide prevention.” The editors called the U.S. suicide rate  “nothing short of an epidemic” with a life being lost every 11.7 minutes.

Ten other states have regulations in place that require psychologists to complete six hours of education in suicide risk assessment and intervention; four  states encourage similar training but do not require it.