Dr. Jennifer Stuber, founder of a suicide prevention organization called Forefront, decided Aberdeen was a good place to launch a statewide educational campaign since Grays Harbor County’s suicide rate is higher than average and many households contain guns and opiod medication.
Sunday morning’s launch of a public-awareness campaign called Safer Homes came at Franklin Field in Aberdeen. Surrounding the field were cardboard tombstones in different colors to denote the method of suicide involved in each. The majority were red, indicating a suicide involving a firearm.
Alan Gottlieb, founder of the gun rights Second Amendment Foundation, supports Forefront’s efforts and spoke Sunday. “I had an employee recently, an Iraq veteran, going through a severe bout of depression. Fortunately, he came forward and told me, so we were able to secure his firearms and get him help,” said Gottlieb. “Another, however, did commit suicide, a journalist who took his life a week later.”
The key, said former 24th District Representative and Hoquiam resident Lynn Kessler, who is on the Forefront advisory board, is learning how to see the signs of depression and removing access to guns and prescription drugs if an individual appears to want to harm themselves.
Stuber started the group when her husband used a firearm to take his own life in 2011.
“I’m a health care professional, and I knew there were signs, but was afraid to have that conversation,” she said. Another woman who lost her teenage son to suicide said of Forefront’s educational efforts, “This is the type of information that likely could have saved my son’s life.”
Gun advocacy groups, including the 2nd Amendment Foundation and the NRA, are behind Forefront’s efforts. Kessler said once they realized the emphasis was not to restrict access to weapons but to simply keep them from the hands of people who may want a gun to harm themselves, they were quickly on board.
Ilan Kariv, owner of Grays Harbor Guns in Aberdeen, is also a firm supporter of Forefront, as are most gun dealers in the state.
“We are the gatekeepers of the gun industry,” he said, adding that training like that provided by Forefront can help he and others like him keep guns out of the hands of someone purchasing it to harm themselves.
Visitors to the event were asked to fill out an evaluation form, then were sent to various sections were volunteers could offer what they need. Free prescription pill bottle locks were given away free, as were firearm trigger locks.
Those who need help and are considering suicide can call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 800-273-8255 or chat online at crisischat.org