Salt Lake magazine
Let’s do the math.

Utah consistently has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation—right now, we’re No. 4.

8 of 10 firearm deaths in the state are suicides (men, in particular, choose guns).

9 of 10 people who kill themselves were having behavioral “issues” shortly before death that may have tipped the family off to an impending tragedy.

Bottom line: If we reduce access to guns—at least when suicide-prone people seem to be emotionally struggling—it could have a dramatic impact on suicide mortality.

As a result of these stats, a state committee worked with the Division of Substance Abuse & Mental Health to develop a strategy to address this problem in we-love-our-guns Utah. The solution may seem a bit underwhelming (hey, this is Utah): The state Bureau of Criminal Information will add a section to the required training for Utah’s a concealed gun permit that stresses suicide prevention. The state will also distribute posters and leaflets and post video PSAs, explaining the signs of suicide and what to do in response (lock up the guns!), to gun stores and shooting ranges and other manly places.

The strategy appears to be part of gun-rights groups nationwide trying undercut gun-control laws aimed at preventing suicides. Suicide is an area that gun rights advocates have a problem defending against—guns are not only very handy in places like Utah, but they are among the most lethal suicide methods—there’s no turning back after the trigger is pulled. Utah had 1,400 gun suicides from 2012 to 2014—less than 200 gun deaths were homicides.

The state’s new brochure, Is Your Safety On? includes the statement: “This [gun-suicide prevention] can be accomplished without government mandates. Together we can protect our families, our friends and our freedom.”

brochure

“Firearm safety is one part of Utah’s comprehensive approach to suicide prevention,” says Kim Myers, Utah Suicide Prevention Coordinator, who says the new initiative, targeting gunstores and ranges, stands a good chance of reaching men in particular.

Here are some not-particularly-fun facts about why putting distance between a suicidal person and a gun is a no-brainer:

  • Guns are the most deadly method of suicide.
  • Suicidal crises are often brief.
  • 90 percent of those who survive a suicide attempt will not go on to die by suicide.
  • 48 percent said it was ten minutes or less from the decision to commit suicide to the attempt.

     

    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK

Glen Warchol

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