Why The US Can No Longer Ignore The Link Between Firearms And Suicide

As if the mass shootings and killings occurring regularly in America are not enough of a reason to unite and speak out against guns, we have been blind and ignorant to yet another significant dimension of gun violence: suicide. We lower our voices to a whisper when we admit the tragic reality that guns are the leading means of suicide in America.

We keep it to a hush. We cover it up. We are either ignorant or unaware of it. Either way, it's time to change this. With the topic of gun policy prominent in the current political debates, it's time to start speaking out about the relationship between gun control and suicide.

1. In 2014, 42,773 Americans died of suicide, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the US. Why are we staying so secretive about guns and suicide and casually brushing it aside, rather than vocalizing the grief and heartbreak surrounding this issue?

2. Over 60 percent of all gun-related deaths in the US are suicides, and of around 40,000 suicide deaths per year, nearly 50 percent are committed by the use of firearms.

3. While women make suicide attempts three times as often as men, men are 3.5 times as likely to die by suicide because men often resort to lethal methods of suicide, such as guns. The instant finality guns provide to someone who is suicidal is what makes their legality and availability so unsettling and even more problematic.

Firearms offer an immediate way out of this world. They empower one decision to transform into a permanent ending. With the quick pull of a trigger, someone can end his or her life. That person can be done. He or she will have no time to be saved or rescued, and the person won't have time to see hope. When people attempt to take their lives with firearms, these suicide attempts almost always result in fatality.

4. A report released by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013 showed that on average, 22 veterans are dying by committing suicide each day. This implies that one veteran dies every 65 minutes by means of suicide.

5. Veterans are now facing higher suicide rates, and of the veterans who do commit suicide, almost 70 percent resort to guns due to easy access to these lethal weapons. They know guns. They've used guns. And they have guns right in their house, not locked up and possibly fully loaded.

6. Due to the frequency of veterans committing suicide by guns, policy should advocate enacting laws regarding keeping guns unloaded, providing gun locks and/or keeping guns out of homes to slow down suicide impulses and give people the chance to seek help. If policy can restrict the access to immediate lethal means of suicide such as firearms, we would see a reduction in the loss of many lives.

7. A common pro-gun misconception is the view that mental health is the problem, rather than guns themselves. These harsh views advocate that guns are not an issue so long as they stay in the hands of the “right” people. This misconception too often paints mental health as a black and white picture. The battle should not be about creating a narrow distinction between those who can and cannot own guns.

The truth is, people do not always realize that someone does not need to be clinically depressed, bipolar or schizophrenic to commit suicide. People may have not have any mental health diagnoses, yet they may still commit suicide. A year of bullying topped by an awful day or the sudden death of a loved one can cause someone to impulsively end his or her life. Suicide does not discriminate.

8. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th most common cause of death across all ages, and the second most common cause of death for those between ages 10 and 24 in the US.

9. Gun control is no longer a political issue. It's no longer about which side of the political spectrum you fall on. Gun control is now a humanitarian concern. The US is the only advanced country in which death by guns is this common, and it's the only country in which the levels of gun violence have reached such an exceedingly high rate that gun deaths are no longer a surprise. It is time to truly realize the devastation guns cause in terms of suicide deaths. It's time to take a stand and move toward regulations, prevention and education.

10. In 2013 alone, over 40,000 individuals died from committing suicide. At what point is it enough? We can't keep living like this. We can't keep pretending that guns aren't an issue or that suicide cannot be prevented. It's time that we come together to make a change in gun policy and to make a change now. It's time to start saving lives.

Despite the loss of countless children, parents, siblings and loved ones, we are still providing easy access to fatal weapons, encouraging these deaths to occur in mass numbers. There are no more excuses to ignore the tragedy of suicide and its link to firearms.

It's time to destigmatize mental illness and suicide, and it's time we open our eyes to the realization that humanity is in danger. When a person is in so much pain that staying alive no longer feels worth it, we need to bring him or her hope and love, not an easy way to leave the world. We need to show those suffering that if they hold on, the pain can subside. And although this isn't always enough, this is a start.