By Emalee Gillis, NAMI Spokane Blog Editor.

FailSafe for Life is a local nonprofit in Spokane that provides subsidized workshops to community members and the helper professions to prevent suicide.  According to Sabrina Votava, the founder and Executive Director of FailSafe for Life, her work in this area grew out of personal loss. She explained, “I lost two of my brothers to suicides six months apart. After the loss, I started to dive into the material around suicide because it was a way for me to cope and understand. I had had passive thoughts of suicide. I wondered how my brothers got from where I was to the act of suicide. As I read the material, I started understanding the warning signs and learned how to have conversations about suicide that could help prevent suicides. I felt compelled for people to know that information.”

In 2016, when Ms. Votava founded FailSafe for Life, funding for suicide prevention was cut from the state level and the local regional health department. She saw a need for a local suicide prevention effort that was not reliant on government funding. FailSafe for Life is completely funded by grants and donations. Some government funding for suicide prevention has since been restored, but FailSafe for Life has become a key player in the Spokane region with a mission of ending suicide through connection, education and hope.

FailSafe for Life organizes workshops designed for anyone in the community to attend who is interested in learning what they can do to help prevent suicide by friends, family, coworkers, or other people with whom they share a connection. The workshop teaches a method called QPR. The Q stands for question. Participants learn how important it is to ask the suicide question and learn ways that are more or less helpful to ask the question. The P stands for Persuasion and the R stands for Refer. QPR is recognition and referral training similar to CPR. Because of funding from Providence Community Benefits and the Multicare Partnerships Fund, FailSafe for Life is able to offer this two-hour training for free to interested community members in both the city of Spokane and in surrounding rural areas. The next QPR training is scheduled for Wednesday, September 27th from 1-3pm. Here is the link to register.

In addition, FailSafe for Life also offers training called ASIST to those in the helper professions. That includes case workers, peer support people, nurses, doctors, chaplains, faith leaders, teachers and many other professions. These workshops are more intensive and are designed to help people create safety when someone is having thoughts of suicide. The training can help avoid hospital stays. This is particularly important in rural communities where there are limited related resources. Professionals who participate in these workshops become more comfortable in their ability to keep someone safe who is thinking about suicide. These two full-day workshops cost $395 a person, but with grant funding, FailSafe is able to offer this training for $100 for people in the Spokane city limits and for free for professionals from surrounding rural areas. The next ASIST training is scheduled for October 5 and 6 at Spokane Community College. FailSafe for Life also offers other advanced training related to suicide prevention for helper profession. If interested in ASIST or other advanced programs, contact FailSafe for Life.

According to Ms. Votava, “The higher the percentage of the community that is trained, the higher chance we have to prevent suicide.” FailSafe has provided training for over 2,000 community members to date.

Another major component of the work of FailSafe relates to spreading kindness. Ms. Votava said, “A great deal of research connects kindness to boosting mental health. Acts of service help the person served, the person who provides the service, and any witnesses. Connecting through acts of kindness is a protective factor against suicide. It is a way of keeping us safe.”

Throughout the month of September, which is Suicide Prevention Month, FailSafe for Life is hosting a kindness campaign. Currently, on the FailSafe for Life website are ideas for acts of kindness and printable cards that help the recipient pass on kindness to others.  FailSafe for Life is also putting together goodie bags for older vulnerable adults in the community.

FailSafe for Life also supports other groups in the community who are involved in suicide prevention. For example, a program called Safer Homes Suicide Aware provides safe medication storage devices, safe disposal devices and safe firearm storage devices at no cost.

Resources for Suicide

  • Call 988 if having thoughts of suicide or if you know someone who is thinking of suicide and don’t know what to do.
  • Call the Regional Crisis Line at 1-877-266-1818 if your phone’s area code is not 509 and you are having thoughts of suicide or if you know someone who is thinking of suicide and don’t know what to do.
  • The Crisis Text line is 741741.
  • Call 911 if a suicide is about to occur.


Sabrina Votava has a Master’s of Arts and is a licensed Mental Health Counselor. She has worked in the suicide area for about 20 years.

Emalee Gillis is a writer and blog editor. She is the author of the memoir Adventures on the Path to Living Well with a Mental Illness and has a related TEDx Talk.