As a Veteran, or the loved one of a Veteran, you want to take every precaution to protect those around you when in crisis. VA’s Acting Director for Suicide Prevention, Dr. Matt Miller, explains in this thought leadership article for Inside Sources that safe firearm storage practices can more than cut in half the chances a friend, co-worker, child, or other family member dies by suicide.
“There is no single cause for suicide. But safe firearm storage practices, such as storing a firearm locked and unloaded when it is not in use, can decrease the risk for suicide by limiting access during times of distress,” wrote Miller, who co-authored the piece with Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Steve Sanetti, CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
By taking this simple step, Veterans and their loved ones can put crucial time and space between suicidal thoughts and seeking out a firearm. “Research has shown that the period of acute suicide risk is often brief,” Miller, Gebbia, and Sanetti wrote. “It is a myth that a person who wants to die by suicide will find a way to do so. If a lethal means such as a firearm is unavailable at the time of emotional crisis, the attempt may be prevented.”
In 2017, firearms were used in nearly half of all suicides among Americans and nearly 70% of Veteran suicide deaths. One study showed that people who kept their firearms locked or unloaded were at least 60% less likely to die from the last tragic act of suicide compared to those who stored their firearms either unlocked, loaded, or both.
To learn more about safe storage best practices, please download this brochure from VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. Friends and family of Veterans can use this guide to learn helpful tips for having a conversation with at-risk Veterans about safe storage practices.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Reporters covering this issue can download VA’s Safe Messaging Best Practices fact sheet or visit www.ReportingOnSuicide.org for important guidance on how to communicate about suicide.
Clairmont J. Barnes, Jr is the Deputy Director, Partnerships & Community Relations for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.