Guns and Suicide
With the intense focus on controlling firearms as a way to prevent violence, we need to remember that most victims of gun violence are the shooters themselves. The suicide rate is rapidly increasing in the United States and the choice of a gun as the means to kill oneself has also increased. The likelihood of death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound is 85% versus 2% from an overdose from pills. Clearly, the lethal potential for a self-inflicted injury is extremely high.
Our country is split in a debate over gun control. There is an intense focus on people with mental problems as the “at risk” individuals for the use of weapons in violent acts. While there is evidence that the shooter in recent mass tragedies, like Aurora and Virginia Tech had mental health problems, the balance of acts involving gun violence involves individuals with unknown mental problems as well as people whose criminal intent was obvious. Recent legislation in New York State puts the burden of responsibility for reporting “at-risk” individuals on mental health clinicians. An unfortunate aspect of that legislation is that many people who commit violent acts are unknown to the mental health community. The legislation may serve to prevent people seeking mental health treatment from coming forward and talking about problems with a trusted therapist in situations when therapy could prevent violence. I agree with the proposals to conduct better background checks, but in reality many of the incidents involving gun violence includes access the weapons stored in the home. Gun safety legislation which addresses access needs to be incorporated into our country’s proposed legislation.
The New York Times of February 14, 2013 published a story about a suicide act of a young man which occurred in his family home. The story highlights the role of access to guns in suicide and speaks to the issues that we need to pay attention to. Click here to read the story.