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News and Views Forefront Insight Blog Personal & professional perspectives on news and policy related to mental health and suicide prevention

Honoring the link between suicide prevention and firearms

Posted on 
05/25/2016

Jennifer Stuber (left) and Kathleen Gilligan share an emotional moment after the luncheon.

Washington CeaseFire honored Forefront co-founder Jennifer Stuber yesterday with its 2016 Delores Jones Person of the Year Award for the individual who has done the most to reduce gun violence in Washington this year. The UW Social Work associate professor was the unanimous choice for the organization’s highest honor because of her “strong advocacy work that sheds light on gun deaths and suicide,” said CeaseFire board member Lauren Bernard.

“She’s brought oxygen to an issue long overlooked,” said Bernard at the group’s annual luncheon. “We’re eternally grateful for Dr. Stuber’s determination, grit and commitment.” 

Stuber clutched an 8 x 10 family photo, taken three months before her husband Matt’s death by firearm, like a talisman as she thanked the group and told how she found common ground with gun rights supporters over grief and mutual concerns about suicide.

“There is a ‘ceasefire’ in the polarized battle over firearms when we talk about preventing suicide,” she said. Notably, gun rights advocates joined her and other suicide prevention advocates and experts in urging Washington legislators to pass the Safer Homes Bill (HB 2793), which provides pathways for gun dealers to become purveyors of information about safe storage and removing firearms from the home when someone is at risk of suicide. Now they are working together to implement the law.

Looking at the issue through an accurate and neutral lens, such as suicide prevention, opens the door to change, she said. 

Storytelling, another lens for change, was a recurring theme at the luncheon. Keynote speaker Robert Greenwald, president of Brave New Films, said Internet-based distribution channels, ranging from home or group showings to social media clips, enable his organization to bypass traditional channels and reach the public quickly with hard-hitting documentaries on topics ranging from warfare to the politics of guns.

Stuber shared a film clip — a heart-rending interview with Forefront volunteer Kathleen Gilligan, whose son died by firearm suicide. It’s from Thunderstorm in My Brain,” a soon-to-be-released documentary she co-produced with videographer David Friedle to tell the stories of loss and lessons learned about suicide and firearms. Stuber praised Gilligan’s courage as a gun owner who was willing to come forward and say how much she wishes suicide had been on her radar.

Suicide risk needs to be on everyone’s radar. As Stuber told the CeaseFire audience, we all need to think protectively and remove potentially lethal means from friends or family members wh

Posted by 
Sue Lockett John's picture
Sue Lockett John, PhD
Forefront Communications Coordinator
Sue has taught media law and other courses in the UW Department of Communication, where she currently is working on research into the news coverage of suicide.