University of Washington
Need help now?  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255
Need Help Now? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1.800.273.8255

Standing-room-only crowd celebrates Forefront's launch

Standing-room-only crowd celebrates Forefront's launch

Jenn Stuber speaks about the loss of her husband, Matt Adler, at the Forefront launch event.  Photo by Ann Slothower

A journey that began in heartbreak took a dramatic turn toward hope for many in the crowd of more than 300 who celebrated the launch of Forefront: Innovations in suicide prevention at the University of Washington on Sept. 10, World Suicide Prevention Day.

There were hugs, reunions, tears and new connections as loss survivors, suicide prevention experts, mental health advocates, and other supporters mingled in the sun-drenched Lyceum Room of the Husky Union Building. By the end of the evening, they had joined event sponsors in raising nearly $75,000 to support Forefront’s ambitious agenda for big-picture changes in public policy, training and communication about mental health and suicide prevention. 

Edwina Uehara, Dean UW School of Social Work, Jennifer Stuber, Forefront Faculty Director, State Representative Tina Orwall.  Photo by Ann SlothowerIt was no coincidence that the launch and fundraiser was celebrated on World Suicide Prevention Day, said emcee and KING 5 traffic anchor Tracy Taylor. Like many in the room, Taylor had a very personal connection to Forefront’s goal of changing the landscape and conversation around suicide prevention. She lost both her father and uncle to suicide.

Loss survivor and Forefront co-founder Jennifer Stuber believes “there wasn’t a dry eye in the room because for many, it was the first time they had an opportunity to come out about a profound loss they had experienced from suicide in their lifetime. Suicide impacts all of us.”

However, the mood was upbeat and infused with confidence that, in Stuber’s words, “The time for suicide prevention is now. Forefront is here to lead and support in the charge.”

Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) Director Jerry Reed said Washington State has proven itself as a national leader in suicide prevention, and predicted that Forefront would be a catalyst for understanding regional differences and breathing life into public policy at the human, local level. “The time is now,” he said in his keynote speech.

Co-founder Sue Eastgard presented Forefront’s inaugural public service award to Washington State Representative Tina Orwall (D-33rd Dist.). Orwall, who earned her MSW at the UW, provided the legislative leadership to make Washington the first state in the nation to require suicide prevention training for mental health care providers. She played a similar role this year in passage of a bill to improve suicide prevention and intervention in middle and high schools.

Hereafter known as the Tina Orwall Public Service Award, the plaque honored her “bold leadership and compassionate heart in preventing the unnecessary tragedy of suicide for many Washingtonians.” Joining in the applause were many of the coalition members organized by Stuber and Eastgard to speak out and support both bills.

Sue Eastgard, Forefront Director of Training and Restaurateur Thomas Soukovas.  Photo by Ann Slothower

 

Co-founder Jenn Stuber closed the evening by telling her own story of how she and her two young children lost husband and father Matt Adler to suicide. She did not know how common suicide is—a leading cause of death among people under the age of 65—until it happened to her family. “ It is painful for me to admit, what I know now to be true, suicide is preventable for most people and likely was for Matt as well,” she said.

“Suicide impacts everyone,’ Stuber continued. “It is a problem we can solve if we work together. There is hope. With the building of Forefront, I have hope and I can continue healing.”

Looking across the room at her 8-year-old son Jake, who had had told her that he believes in Forefront because he wants to make sure what happened to his Dad does not happen to anybody else’s, she agreed. “Daddy’s loss will not be in vain if we can work together with so many others to prevent this tragedy from happening to other families.”

Sponsors contribute to success

Due to the generosity of sponsors and in-kind donors, funds raised at the launch event went entirely to Forefront’s initiatives to prevent suicide through training, public policy change, school and campus-based interventions, media outreach, and evaluation.

Advance giving and support came from: (Founder level) DLA Piper LLP;  (Friend level) Blucora, Children's Hospital & Medical Center, Navos Mental Health Solutions, UW Department of Communication, UW Department of Educational Psychology, UW School of Nursing, UW School of Social Work; (Fan level) Pacific Heritage Appraisal and Morgan Stanley.

Jerry Reed, Director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.  Photo credit: Ann Slothower

Guests enjoyed an array of beverages, Greek mezes and sweet treats donated by a long list of local vendors, headed by Vios Café restaurateur Thomas Soukovas. Additional in-kind donations were provided by Big Time Brewery, Columbia Winery, JM Cellars, Portteus Winery, Whole Foods, Chocolati, Pinka Bella, The Sweet Side, J. Foss Garden Flower and Grand Events Rentals.

Musicians Gary Lee Johnson and Mike Aucher hit just the right notes with their original music and adapted covers.