Every day, more than 60 people die by firearm suicide. These deaths constitute three of every five firearm deaths and comprise half of all suicide deaths in the United States. The firearm suicide rate has steadily increased over the last decade, including the youth firearm suicide rate. We are experiencing a public health crisis that affects all Americans — especially those who own guns.
As National Suicide Prevention Week begins, the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence is taking steps to prevent these deaths. Today, we are pleased to announce the launch of our new Prevent Firearm Suicide website — a comprehensive resource for those invested in preventing suicide by firearm.
Prevent Firearm Suicide applies the social ecological model to firearm suicide. The website explores a multilevel approach to suicide prevention and addresses how reducing access to firearms can save lives. Describing each of the four levels involved in firearm suicide prevention — individual, relationship, community, and societal — the website provides a comprehensive prevention strategy focused on limiting access to lethal means.
At the individual level, Prevent Firearm Suicide focuses on how biological and personal history factors affect a person’s suicide risk and how prevention efforts — typically education — can address those factors. Educating individuals about the importance of separating oneself from lethal means, often through safer storage practices, is a critical component of prevention at the individual level.
At the relationship level, Prevent Firearm Suicide explores relationships with family, friends, and other people that may influence the risk of suicide. Suicide prevention efforts at the relationship level focus on the support and influence of others in temporarily separating firearms from an at-risk individual. In addition to loved ones, health care providers can engage in firearm suicide prevention at this level by providing lethal means safety counseling to patients.
At the community level, Prevent Firearm Suicide focuses on engaging groups or members of the community who may have influence to prevent firearm suicide. This could include activities like engaging firearm retailers through gun shop projects or educating gun owners about suicide prevention in the community.
At the societal level, Prevent Firearm Suicide explores how policy, social and cultural norms, and other larger societal factors influence firearm suicide. The site describes policies like extreme risk laws and voluntary self-prohibition, discussing how implementing such policies can prevent suicide and ultimately shift cultural norms related to guns and suicide.
In addition to describing these four levels in detail, Prevent Firearm Suicide provides general facts, statistics, frequently asked questions about firearm suicide, a map detailing state-specific firearm suicide facts, and a resources tab for those seeking more information.
Often, suicide is discussed in whispers and kept behind closed doors. The stigma associated with suicide keeps this problem hidden in the darkness. And when people do talk about suicide, these deaths are often treated as inevitable.
Prevent Firearm Suicide seeks to challenge that narrative. As its name suggests, the website discusses firearm suicide as the preventable public health problem it is. Research consistently shows that access to firearms increases the risk of suicide, and putting time and space between someone who may attempt suicide and firearms makes it more likely that they will survive a suicide attempt. With its data-driven yet approachable format — ideal for individuals, loved ones, community members, policymakers, and everyone in between — Prevent Firearm Suicide will be a critical resource for both the gun violence prevention and suicide prevention communities.