Since 2007, Vashon Island has had an unfortunate increase in suicides for our population density, compared to the rest of King County. As a primary care office on a small island only accessible by ferry, both our practitioners and patients have been affected by these deaths in one way or another.
In an effort to help them navigate the incredible grief that we have all faced, and to try to prevent further tragedies in our community, Vashon Natural Medicine wanted to do more. Our office was fortunate enough to host a training for health care professionals by the University of Washington this last winter on Suicide Prevention. The UW has a group that provides these trainings called Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention.
The trainings are designed for professionals who are working with persons at risk of suicide, to help "accept the client’s suffering while simultaneously conveying a commitment of healing and hope". It was a very successful training with 18 providers in attendance, and we were all very impressed with the new knowledge and skills we were able to take with us. We gained knowledge as individual practitioners, and the ability to refer to each other as professionals to support our patients as needed.
Having grown up on Vashon, I remember the challenges of feeling like an isolated teenager, and as a health care professional I understand the lack of resources we face to reach those with mental health challenges. And knowing the victims and survivors of suicide, I understand how hard it can sometimes be to prevent. The most important thing that anyone can do, is to simply ask someone you are concerned about. Ask, and listen. The simple act of caring through communication cannot be underestimated when trying to prevent a needless tragedy like suicide.
Forefront is an amazing organization that works with communities across Washington. They work to educate, and even to help create legislation to further protect those with depression from harming themselves before they can get help. For more information on their efforts, please visit their web site: www.intheforefront.org