[Note: David Yamashita also volunteers extensively for the NVC Foundation. We are so proud to have him as part of the NVCF family!]
Forefront Suicide Prevention honored two dedicated community organizers, David Yamashita and Kathleen Gilligan, with the Tina Orwall Community Advocate Award at its Oct. 18 fifth annual suicide awareness dinner fundraiser, Restoring Hope.
Named after Rep. Tina Orwall (D – Des Moines), the award honors the critical role that public service plays in suicide prevention. The winners held significant roles in rallying communities around the cause of suicide prevention – including serving on task forces, sharing their stories in videos and with media outlets, and giving testimony for legislation to reduce access to lethal means.
Gilligan, who lost her 14-year-old son Palmerston R.K. Burk to suicide in 2012, has been active in unifying various communities to find solutions. In a nomination, Lisa Mazor described Gilligan’s journey:
"Kathleen was dying of grief, but I watched as Forefront gave her a very real purpose, and I could hardly believe it when she found the strength to testify in Olympia the very first time. Suddenly, my friend was sharing her beloved son’s story with lawmakers, and not just using it as a cautionary tale, but as a means to help prevent suicide.”
Gilligan also gives talks to parents at middle and high schools, and, within the Forefront Cares program, mentors other grieving parents.
Forefront faculty director Jennifer Stuber also described Gilligan: “An incredibly brave person, Kathleen advocates for the Safer Homes message at community events and on the task force. She agreed to be followed around for a year through the production of the short film Thunderstorm in My Brain, which now appears in the Safer Homes, Suicide Aware firearms retailer training.”
David Yamashita was recognized for his dedication to suicide prevention since losing his mother, Patricia, to suicide. In a nomination, Rep. Orwall described Yamashita as “instrumental in passage of legislation this session to address suicide prevention with his poignant written testimony on House Bill 1612, my bill to create a fund for a Suicide-Safer Homes public education platform.”
“He continues to be very active in volunteering at Forefront in speaking at various events as well as serving as a member of the Pharmacy Suicide-Safer Homes Task Force. David’s heartfelt advocacy is an inspiration to me and countless others,” wrote Orwall.
Washington Recovery Alliance executive director Lauren Davis described Yamashita’s devotion: spending evenings and weekends, and even taking time off of work, to provide suicide prevention trainings to community groups and even one-on-one in coffee shops.
He also appeared in a video for the first-of-its-kind suicide prevention training for pharmacists, and spoke at the Washington State Pharmacy Association conference in 2016.
“Within the first year of his mom's tragic death by suicide, David had reached out to me asking how he could get involved in suicide prevention efforts. He told me ‘If you want me to scrub toilets, I will. I just want to help,’” wrote Davis. “Since then, he has been a rocket ship, propelled by compassion, commitment, hope, and training from Forefront.”
At the Oct. 18 Restoring Hope event, Forefront also acknowledged four other award winners who have made an impact on the suicide prevention movements:
Makenzie Davis, Emerging Leader Award
Anna Ratzliff, M.D, Ph.D., Sue Eastgard Training Excellence Award
Senator Joe Fain, Legislator Award
Bill Radke and Matthew Martin of KUOW, Washington Award for Excellence in Coverage of Mental Health & Suicide
About Forefront: A social impact center housed in the UW School of Social Work since 2013, Forefront led the historic passage of six pieces of legislation – forging Washington’s path as the first state in the nation to require suicide prevention training for mental health professionals, doctors, nurses, teachers, and schools. Forefront is focused on ending suicide by championing suicide prevention, leading systemic change, and advocating for the many family and community members affected.