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Suicide Prevention – Restricting Access To Lethal Means


Joyce-supported researcher speaks about ways to lower the rate of military suicides.

After serving their country, soldiers oftentimes return home with the unseen wound of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While many soldiers get the treatment and help needed to recover from PTSD, some do not.  According to the Military Suicide Research Consortium, the Pentagon reported 320 military suicides in 2012.

Reducing access to firearms helps to reduce suicides. According to the Journal of Trauma, guns in the home are 11 times more likely to be used in suicide attempts and four times more likely to be involved in accidents than used in self-defense. “There are two ways to reduce suicide: You can make it harder for [individuals] to die in an attempt, or you can heal underlying distress. The idea is to restrict methods that are the most lethal, to provide a second chance,” Matthew Miller, the associate director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, a Joyce Foundation grantee, recently told Stars and Stripes magazine.

Read the Stars and Stripes article.

For soldiers suffering from psychological distress, Miller told Stars and Stripes, they typically don’t act until a reaching a tipping point or last straw. “That’s the time when you can lose control of your ability to act in a sensible way,” Miller said. “When you are at your wits’ end, what you can reach for determines whether you live or die. All you have to do to die is lose control for one minute. If you’re in a house with a gun, there’s a lot more of a chance you’re going to die,” he said.

According to Miller’s research, individuals who died by suicide were more likely to live in a home with guns than individuals who attempted suicide and survived. This is due to the lethal nature of guns. As a means to commit suicide, firearms are fast and the impact is almost certain to cause death.  By contrast, nine out of ten people who attempt suicide and survive will not go on to die by suicide at a later date.

In a December 7, 2012 op-ed in the Washington Post, Gen. Reimer (Ret.) and Gen. Chiarelli (Ret.) wrote: “One of the most effective measures of suicide prevention is to ask those perceived to be under duress: ‘Do you have a gun in your home?’ If the answer is yes, we might then suggest that the individual put locks on the weapon or store it in a safe place during periods of high stress — things that any responsible gun owner should do.”

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