All around us, our friends and loved ones are going through tough pandemic times. If they had been injured in an accident or had a physical illness, you would help them. Do the same now if they are going through a tough life event or struggling with their mental health.

Forefront Suicide Prevention, UW developed the LEARN steps, which they have generously shared with VashonBePrepared and CCT for community awareness of suicide prevention and resiliency building during the pandemic.


Click on following images for full-size versions.

L.E.A.R.N. Saves Lives

Look for Signs:

  • Hopelessness, depression, anxiety
  • Feeling like a burden to others
  • Social withdrawal, isolation
  • Sleep problems
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Loss, rejection or humiliation
  • Giving away possessions
  • Talking about death

“....check in on your family and friends...are they particularly isolated, are they withdrawn...showing signs of depression, anxiety...?”

If you came upon a wreck, with somebody badly injured, you would want to know how to help them. Someone you know might be suffering from an invisible wreck right now, especially in these pandemic times. You can help them by learning how to LEARN. It’s a step-by-step easy to understand suicide prevention technique.

It’s as important as knowing CPR.

The L in LEARN stands for Look for Signs. Click to hear Marine Corps veteran Brett Bass share his own experiences about suicide.

Empathize & Listen:

  • Remain calm & offer compassion
  • Avoid judgement or advice
  • When in doubt, just listen
  • "This must be so hard for you"
The E in LEARN stands for Emphasize and Listen. Laila Rhenifel shares the story of how she has been affected by suicide, and explains the difference between empathy and sympathy.

Ask Directly about Suicide:

  • Asking won't put the idea in their mind, instead it shows you care
  • Asking offers them a chance to share their pain
  • "Sometimes when people feel hopeless, they are thinking about suicide. Are you thinking about suicide?"
Philip Tyler tells us his story, about losing his son to suicide, and explains how asking someone you're concerned about if they are considering suicide can open the conversation and help you help them.

Remove the Danger:

  • Lock up & limit access to medications and firearms.
Mike Shute explains the R step in LEARN Saves Lives, and shares how he talks to his staff and colleagues about the importance of removing access to dangers (aka "lethal means") in preventing suicide.

Next Level of Care:

  • Call 800-273-8255, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HEAL to 741741
  • Immediate Danger? Call 911
The N in LEARN stands for Next Steps. Click to hear husband Ken Yasuhara share his experience about helping his wife avoid suicide.

Fall 2020 Suicide Prevention Campaign

Webinar: Suicide prevention training for Parents and Caregivers

Tales from the Edge: Suicide Survivors Share Their Stories

Tales from the Edge: Suicide Survivors Share Their Stories from Vashon Center for the Arts on Vimeo.

The Tales from the Edge event launches a VashonBePrepared suicide prevention campaign of public awareness and education, produced by the Community Care Team unit of the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps. In the words of Voice of Vashon host Susan McCabe: “Pandemic pressures have weighed heavily on Vashonians, and we hope this broadcast will start giving our community some healing tools to help each other deal with the pandemic's devastating impacts."

Islanders face a grave threat as the pandemic drags on and we are seeing a surge in substance abuse, domestic abuse, loneliness, and depression. All these challenges can build up to deadly consequences. You will learn to recognize the warning signs of suicide, what to say to a person in need, and how to take action to help them. This Vashon Center for the Arts live broadcast takes place on World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th, 7:00pm.

We Must Prepare for the Coming COVID-19 Mental-Health Crisis

Depression by Seattle Times artist Nancy Ohanian / Op-Art

The Seattle Times published VashonBePrepared's own John Osborn & Stewart Wilder's Op-Ed on Sept. 8, 2020

This fall marks a time of growing concern for the mental health and well-being of the citizens of our country. Our family knows loss.

Cameron Wilder was 17 years old. The son of one of the authors and nephew of the other, Cameron wowed audiences with his singing and acting. He stood up for peers who were bullied or left out. Cameron died just after starting his junior year of high school. His forever decision was seven years ago.

Survivors of suicide — living anniversaries of loss —- are moved to protect others and sound the alarm when needed.

We, and the people we love, face more months of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising infections and death tolls, and national economic and societal challenges. Together we face:

  • Dark days of fall and winter, social distancing and isolation;
  • Uncertainties about school and child care;
  • Sporting events canceled;
  • Crushing unemployment, with people unable to pay rent and people who are hungry or homeless;
  • A potential “twindemic”: Influenza and COVID-19 combined could increase infections and death rates; 
  • The November elections.

Are we as a nation prepared to prevent COVID-19’s increase in suicide? We are already seeing increases in leading risk factors: depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use, domestic violence and child abuse. 

Building blocks for coordinating COVID-19 mental-health campaigns already exist in many communities. They include mental-health professionals and social workers, school counselors, medical and nursing professionals, medical reserve corps, public-health districts and many others. Who else can and will help? Survivors of suicide, nongovernmental organizations working in mental health, faith communities, tribal elders and cultural leaders, emergency responders, state and local officials and so many others.

We are asking the National Governors Association and the National Congress of American Indians to step up. State and tribal sovereigns should encourage suicide prevention first-aid training to support our communities through the dark days ahead. Coordinated mental-health campaigns should run through Memorial Day 2021.

Death by suicide is not a partisan issue. We need governors to work together, coordinating state resources across political boundaries. Idaho, Washington and Oregon are taking first steps to work across state boundaries in this effort.

We don’t have time for “reinventing wheels,” especially for those at risk. Models exist. Others are launching. Located between Seattle and Tacoma is Vashon Island, served by one of America’s volunteer Medical Reserve Corps (MRCs). The Vashon MRC has two model programs being exported to other rural and at-risk communities: community-based COVID-19 testing, and mental-health and spiritual support.

In these dark times, mental-health professionals and spiritual leaders are stepping up to help. The Vashon MRC’s Community Care Team has created a crisis help line and online support groups facilitated by volunteer mental-health professionals and spiritual leaders. The team has developed an exportable web-based mental-health tool kit and will soon launch a suicide prevention campaign. The campaign integrates diverse community partners with mental-health providers, offering free trainings in suicide prevention.

What can you do to help? Watch for those around you who may be struggling. Ask if they are OK. Educate yourself on suicide-prevention resources and trainings. Volunteer to help those in need and help them through these challenging times. 

One action you can take is to support your local Medical Reserve Corps. Congress has cut the federal MRC funding to $6 million annually needed to support 839 MRC units and 175,000 volunteers. The president proposes cutting more. Yet MRCs nationwide protect our communities against COVID-19 while also responding to hurricanes, fires, floods and more.

Finally, if you are struggling, or thinking of harming yourself, call 800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to 741-741. We are all in this together.