Board Member Bios

William Whitfield

We are pleased to have William Whitfield join our board! He  is a Pipe Trade Instructor for Seattle Area Pipe Trades Apprenticeship. His story, in his own words:

“Born and raised in St. Louis, MO, my three siblings and both parents provided a very loving upbringing. In high school, my father strongly suggested that I change my career desires from being an engineer to getting a trade. This led me into the plumbing field. I joined the union right after graduation and was married six months later to the backbone and the rock in my life. After a lot of traveling as a young married couple, Christine and I decided to move out West in 2004. A visit with family in Seattle influenced us. I rejoined the union in Seattle, Local 32, which was the start of many doors being opened and amazing opportunities. 

For example, I was offered a change in responsibility with a position as a Service Superintendent. This got me on the path of doing what I was meant to do, helping people! My primary job was problem solving not just technically but also personnel issues and I was in contact with the customers and coworkers on a daily basis. Helping to inspire and encourage my coworkers became paramount. Also I began to deal with anxiety and depression around this time, I found myself immersing my energies into helping my team and customers more and more. This was in hopes of hiding my own personal problem. In my mind, the better I took care of my customers the better I felt about myself but I was never really dealing with the real issue. Because of my enjoyment of customer service, I was asked to teach a customer service class at the union hall. This led me to full time teaching and focusing on helping apprentices. The more time I spent with apprentices, the more I wanted to help.

It became obvious that there was a need for more support in the arena of mental health. This also gave me the strength to start dealing with my own mental health; how can you help someone, if you cannot ask for help yourself? I was asked to take a mental health training class taught by Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas (US president and founder). I can honestly say that class changed my life. About a year later, as a US board member, I have an amazing opportunity to work with incredible people. I am looking forward to learning more and becoming a better ally for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.”

Bre Banks, MA, Ph.D.

Welcome to the board Dr. Bre Banks! Bre is a Senior Consultant on the Veterans Administration Whole Health project. Before joining Guidehouse, a global provider of strategy and managed services to commercial and public sector clients in November 2023, she served as a Research Associate on several projects at the Education Development Center (EDC) with a core focus on suicide prevention. Here, most of her work resided in the Zero Suicide Institute and National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (NAASP). She brings expertise and 14 years of experience in suicide-specific research, program evaluation, training, and treatment. Before joining EDC, Bre served as the Director of Clinical Education at Centerstone’s Research Institute, where she led the development of novel training strategies in the nation’s first community-based simulation training center for community behavioral health.

Bre also currently serves as an Adjunct Scientist member at the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center within the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobiology in the Depression and Suicide Center. She holds a BA in psychology and political science, an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. Her personal lived experience with suicide began in 2010 when she experienced her own suicide crisis, soon thereafter followed by the suicide losses of two dear friends. In her own words: “My commitment to this work was built from both personal and professional experiences. Having lost loved ones to suicide, experiencing my own suicidality, and working with clients with a desire to die really cemented the notion that there’s nothing quite like suicidal suffering; and I don’t want anyone to have to suffer that way, especially alone. Bringing access to evidence-based, culturally responsive treatment and intervention to these folks who need it most is the primary reason I’m here. I want to help them suffer less, and to be able to create the lives that they can, and want, to live.”

In Honor of Diana Cortez Yañez