World Suicide Prevention Awareness Day sparks classes, campaigns to help those at-risk

    Chris Cornell (Sakura/

    SEATTLE --Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Awareness Day and September as a whole is Suicide Prevention Month.

    In Washington, more than 1,100 lives are lost to suicide every year.

    People who seemed to have it all -- like Anthony Bordain, Kate Spade, Chris Cornell, Washington State football quarterback Tyler Hilinski -- took their own life. It's sparking a lot of more dialogue about a difficult subject.

    Numbers out from the CDC show that suicide has risen 25 percent across the U.S. in the last 20 years.

    “This is a major public health crisis, a mental health crisis,” said Dr. Jennifer Stuber, Policy Director and a faculty member of Forefront Suicide Prevention at University of Washington.

    The group was offering free training Monday to community members, including some tips to deal with suicide prevention.

    "We call it 'LEARN,' " said Stuber. “There's an acronym that stands for Look for signs, Empathize and listen, Ask directly about suicide, Remove the dangers, and Next steps to help.”

    Health experts say they're seeing an alarming increase in suicide among middle and high school students because of various reasons.

    "Easy access to mean includes firearms, that includes medication,” said Stuber. “The increasing use of technology, particularly iPhone and social media use.”

    Health officials, teachers, and some local businesses are stepping up to help put an end to suicides.

    “Many people don’t realize is many suicides are preventable,” said Stuber.

    Seattle-based MOD Pizza has launched a special three-month national campaign called the "Isaac Project."

    “Suicide was made very personal to our company through the loss of a very special customer named Isaac,” said Ally Svenson, MOD Pizza co-founder. "He was a young boy in Illinois and he spent a lot of time in our location there."

    MOD Pizza says the Isaac Project raises awareness and helps shine a light on a serious subject.

    “The focus of that pizza was to get people to talk and take away the stigma of discussing mental health issues,” said Svenson. “All of our locations have materials and connections that can be made to an organization that can provide support. And our MOD squads have been empowered to provide materials to customers.”

    Classes and campaigns are just a few ways our community is coming together to address suicide prevention. The local 24-hour crisis line in King County, “the Crisis Connection" received more than 119,000 calls for help last year.

    The Crisis Connection says the increasing number of suicides has a lot to do with isolation and many people who are at-risk don’t know where or how to reach out. Calling a crisis line or connecting with loved ones is a way to start, says Executive Director Ally Franklin.

    Just asking the simple questions, “Are you OK?" "Are you having a tough moment?" "Are you thinking of hurting yourself?” And then reaching out and connecting them to help can make a big difference.

    Franklin also says people who are at-risk for suicide can consider volunteering or doing things that help them re-connect with the community or make feel like they’re making a difference again.

    If you need help, or if you're worried about a friend or loved one, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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