State lawmakers considering suicide prevention bill

The bill calls for new partnerships in suicide prevention to establish a "Safe Homes Task Force" with pharmacists and firearm dealers.

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A somber display greeted visitors on the Capitol lawn on Monday - 1,111 tombstones for the number of suicides in our state in 2014.

Stark colors represent the lethal means: Red tombstones are firearm suicides, they make up half the total.

Yellow is suicide by poisoning or overdose. David Yamashida's mom was one of them.

"She filled her own prescription, her last prescription in July of 2014, and swallowed that entire prescription," he said.

Patricia Yamashita suffered from depression. Her son believes she was given prescription medications she should not have access to.

 

Supporters of the suicide awareness and prevention legislation want the state to take a new approach to suicide prevention that includes some big change in the ways government identifies risk factors.

"It's an issue that's important to all of us," said Steve McLean of Sound Mental Health. "When the government uses its resources and its platform to raise the profile of a very important public health issue, we always think that's a great idea."

Sound Mental Health is one of many organizations keeping a close eye House Bill 2793. The bill calls for new partnerships in suicide prevention to establish a "Safe Homes Task Force" with pharmacists and firearms dealers. Experts want those people to raise public awareness about suicide and the need for safe storage of weapons and proper ways to dispose medication. A majority of suicides come from easy access to guns and abuses of prescription medications.

Last year, 1,111 people in Washington died by suicide. More than a fifth of those who died were military veterans. Government statistics show two people between the ages of 10 and 24 die by suicide each week in Washington state.

"When life is snuffed out early, there is a significant amount of suffering and pain for individuals, family members, loved ones, co-workers, even the community as a whole. The fabric of that has been undermined by the unnecessary loss of life," said McLean.

Veteran Mark Oravsky lost two fellow soldiers to suicide, and once contemplated taking his own life. Often prevention is a simple question.

"Are you feeling like hurting yourself? Are you contemplating suicide? It's amazing what happens when folks are asked that question in a direct way," said Oravsky.

And perhaps no statistic is more direct than this one: Almost 70 percent of the gun deaths in Washington state are people taking their own lives..

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

To learn more about innovations in suicide prevention in Washington state, visit http://www.intheforefront.org/

 


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