The Tragedy of Suicide, and the Courage to Make a Difference

In a motel on Seattle’s Aurora Avenue in the dark days of winter, Matt sat alone and took his own life.

He was 40 years old, a senior partner in a prestigious national law firm, a husband and the father of two young children.

Across the state, in the rural town of Packwood, it was springtime when Brian wandered through the back roads. He came upon an open trailer where he found a loaded rifle and took his own life.

He was only 16 years old and a beloved son, grandson, nephew, brother and friend to many.

The families of Matt and Brian came to me for answers and help. While I am proud that we obtained some measure of justice for these families, this story is not about what we did.

Rather, it is a story of how Matt’s wife, and Brian’s grandmother, had the courage to channel their grief into action.

Channeling grief into action

Jenn, Matt’s surviving wife, and Debbie, Brian’s surviving grandmother—with the help of many others—searched for ways to help. The families wanted something useful to come from these tragedies, something that could help prevent others from experiencing such pain.

They learned that suicide is terrifyingly common in Washington State, and across the country.

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Across the U.S., the overall suicide rate rose by 24% from 1999-2014. Washington has a higher rate of suicide than the national average.

More than 42,000 people die by suicide each year in the U.S. That is one death approximately every 13 minutes. It is the second most common cause of death among teenagers, and fourth among adults age 35-44.

They also learned that most health care professionals receive little or no training in how to assess, manage and treat suicidal individuals.

Clearly, there was a lapse in public safety.

With the help of suicide prevention experts, individuals bereaved by suicide, and the support of Washington State Representative Tina Orwall, they created the “Matt Adler Suicide, Assessment, Treatment and Management Act of 2012”.

The law requires health care professionals to obtain training on suicide prevention.

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Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signing the bill into law

 

The Important Work of Forefront

Since then, they have been instrumental in launching Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention at the University of Washington. Forefront has worked to pass five other legislative bills to help prevent suicides. They have also formed a group of public and private schools to help their staffs play an important role in suicide prevention.

These are just a few accomplishments of Jenn, Debbie, and many others who have come together in support of suicide prevention. Thanks to their efforts, Washington State is now leading the way in suicide education and prevention efforts.

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Debbie received the Tina Orwall Public Service Award at Forefront’s event, “A Place for Everyone”.

 

Recently, I attended the Forefront’s annual event, “A Place for Everyone.” There was a huge crowd, more than 700 people.

 

I am often inspired by the resilience and fortitude that people can exhibit in the midst of tremendous personal loss.

But the work of Forefront is particularly impressive: in just a few years, Jenn and Debbie have channeled their grief into real and positive change.

 

 

Take a moment and look at the important work Forefront is doing – www.intheforefront.org.

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Coluccio Law is a proud sponsor of Forefront, and other organizations benefiting the health and safety of our community.

 

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