Community Health & Wellness

Pierce County, city of Gig Harbor promote suicide awareness

Posted on September 13th, 2023 By: Mary Williams

The Pierce County Council declared September as Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month in Pierce County on Aug. 29 and presented a proclamation to Thelma Brown, president of the Gig Harbor Key Peninsula Suicide Prevention Coalition.

The council also issued the proclamation to Kelly and Corey Widman, parents of Reese Widman, died under tragic circumstances in January.

Reese Widman was a 17-year-old senior at Steilacoom High School when he died in an intentional car crash. His parents described him as a happy-go-lucky star varsity baseball player who experienced suicidal ideations caused by medication he was prescribed for epilepsy.

Following his death, his family started Widdy’s Work, a nonprofit focused on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues and encouraging pediatricians to screen for depression, particularly when prescribing the type of medication that Reese was taking.

Thelma Brown of the Gig Harbor Key Peninsula Suicide Prevention Coalition speaks at a Pierce County Council meeting. Photo courtesy Pierce County

‘There is Help’

Brown thanked the council for its Aug. 29 allocation of $1.1 million to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department to expand teen mental health first aid training in 12 Pierce County school districts. She also thanked the Pierce County Transportation Department for partnering with the coalition to place signs on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that read “There is Help” and provide a phone number and text.

She said that they believe the signs have saved at least two lives since they went up.

Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in Washington state, and the second highest cause of death for teenagers between 15 and 19 years of age. The proclamation noted:

  • In Pierce County, 23 percent of 10th graders report that they considered attempting suicide and 10% have attempted it.
  • LGBTQ community members, veterans and tribal populations experience factors linked to suicide disproportionately.
  • Veterans Affairs report that veteran suicide rates increased 55 per cent from 2001 to 2019, and veterans are one and a half times more likely to die by suicide than those who have not served.
  • There is one suicide nationally every 11 minutes.

The Gig Harbor City Council also proclaimed Sept. 10 through 16 Suicide Prevention Week during its meeting on Monday, Sept. 11.

Dial 988

In July 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline implemented a hotline, available by dialing 988, that provides assistance to anyone experiencing a mental health or suicide-related crisis.

Other local resources available include:

  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness Pierce County Crisis Line at 1-800-576-7764.
  • Crisis Connections Clinic – 1-866-427-4747
  • Veterans Crisis Line – 1-800-273-8256
  • Washington Recovery Help Line – 1-866-789-1511
  • Teen Link – 1-866-833-6546