Suicide is a preventable, public health issue. This is the framework from which our workgroup aims to develop standards for Suicide Prevention. We have been meeting since February, you can see our focus areas in our charter, and we welcome you to join us this month on April 12th. One topic that has come up in discussion is the goal of breaking down stigma around suicide. By way of inspiration, here are three ways this is currently being done in communities around the country:

1) Storytelling | Florida — To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery. “It started with a story. Our founder, Jamie Tworkowski, didn’t set out to start a nonprofit organization. All he wanted to do was help a friend and tell her story. When Jamie met Renee Yohe, she was struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. He wrote about the five days he spent with her before she entered a treatment center, and he sold T-shirts to help cover the cost. When she entered treatment, he posted the story on MySpace to give it a home. The name of the story was To Write Love on Her Arms.”

2) Public Art | Pennsylvania — Finding the Light Within (News Story + Scholarly Article) is “a community mobilization initiative to reduce the stigma associated with suicide through public arts participation that took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 2011 through 2012. The stigma associated with suicide is a major challenge to suicide prevention, erecting social barriers to effective prevention and treatment and enhancing risk factors for people struggling with suicidal ideation and recovery after losing a loved one to suicide. This project engaged a large and diverse audience and built a new community around suicide prevention through participatory public art, including community design and production of a large public mural about suicide, storytelling and art workshops, and a storytelling website.”

3) Sticky Notes | Nationwide — The Orange Project/#worthliving (News Story + Website) is “a youth-driven and youth-focused educational and social media campaign to: Share handwritten words of hope and inspiration, support more open communication about suicide, raise awareness of the warning signs, encourage adolescents to feel comfortable asking for help, and hopefully, help save a life. Why the color orange? Orange offers emotional strength in difficult times and represents optimism and rejuvenation. It stimulates communication and assists in recovery from grief.” | “The Orange Project rose out of tragedy, but is now becoming a movement to reduce the stigma of suicide and raise awareness of suicide prevention through a series of orange sticky notes.”

We will be working closely with the Washington State Department of Health – who developed a Suicide Prevention Plan in January 2016. Come meet our members, see our progress, and let us know what you think at one of our upcoming meetings – the second Thursday of every month. Find out more on our Suicide Prevention workgroup page.
Emily Wittenhagen
Marketing and Communications Manager