Here is a statistic that surprises many people. Most gun deaths in the country, 19,990 - more than 60%, are suicides. These tragedies rarely make the news, get candlelight vigils, or prompt statements from our political leaders. There is little in the current national discourse which will impact these deaths.
If we want to dramatically reduce deaths caused by guns, we need to put as much focus on the preventing gun suicides as we do on gun homicides. And we can start at home. Three years ago, we launched our Suicide-Proof Your Home initiative based on the sobering fact that eight out of ten children and teens who kill themselves do so with a gun from a family member - usually a parent.
When our babies start to be able to move around, everyone from your pediatrician to your mother-in-law warns you it’s time to childproof. We cover sockets, put locks on cabinets, etc. You don’t think twice, it’s what all responsible parents do – better safe than sorry.
As our kids age, we think differently; they’re more responsible, smarter, can handle temptation better but access to guns is something that we can’t risk. Anyone who has parented an adolescent knows impulsivity can be an issue. One out of every four people who attempt suicide will spend just five minutes – around the same amount of time you’ll spend reading this blog – contemplating killing themselves before they make an attempt, 70% decide in less than an hour. Because suicide can often be an impulsive decision, limiting access to guns allows time for the suicidal impulse to pass or lessen in intensity.
Will limiting access to guns prevent every suicide attempt? No, but we can reduce the chances that they will die. Most people who survive an attempt do not go on to die by suicide but, with a gun, only one out of ten get that second chance. This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, think about your loved ones who may have access to guns and what you can do to make sure they stay safe.