Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Suicide solutions in Wyoming should go beyond the glib “it’s a mental health issue”

Thanks to the Casper Star-Tribune, and to reporter Tom Morton, for keeping alive the issue of Wyoming’s high suicide rates.

The Wyoming Survey & Analysis Center reports an average of 107 people a year completed suicides from 2007-2009. Of those completed suicides, 72 percent were accomplished by firearms.

Generally, only 1 percent or 2 percent of people attempt suicide with firearms, but firearms are 85 percent to 90 percent lethal. Other methods, even hanging, can give a person a window to reconsider and get help. Guns by their very nature are lethal. If they weren't, people wouldn't use them for self defense.


On personal note, I'm also a survivor of a suicide attempt. I used pills and alcohol. If I had a gun, I wouldn't be here. Preventing suicide by firearm involves many of the practices one finds in hunter safety and the NRA's Eddie Eagle programs. The precautions of storing ammo and firearms separately or using gun locks equals "banning guns."

This scourge of suicide by firearm has become a sad political debate instead of its recognition as a terrible personal and social tragedy needing solutions beyond a glib "it's a mental health issue." And so I'll end with a question: If someone told you s/he was considering suicide and had immediate access to a gun, what would you do? Call a mental health professional for an appointment? Look for antidepressants in the medicine cabinet? I doubt it.

I would hope you would dial 911. I also hope you would do whatever you could to take the gun away from the person as soon as possible.

Banning guns is not an option. Gun safety helps, as do education programs and access to suicide hotlines. The gun is a very final solution to what can often be a passing call to end it all.

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