Suicide, Mental Health and Guns

According to a study published by researchers from the University of Nevada-Reno and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the majority of firearm related deaths are from suicide and that more Americans die from gun-related suicides than anywhere else in the world. “Many suicides are impulsive, and the urge to die fades away. Firearms are a swift and lethal method of suicide with a high case-fatality rate.” Two thirds of suicide-related deaths in the United States are from firearms.

A study conducted by the Los Angeles County in 1995 published results where three of the top five most lethal suicide methods were shotgun wounds to different parts of the body – the highest ranked being ‘a shotgun wound to the head’ with a 99% lethality rate. (Note: Due to the nature of the resource that I got that statement from, I think it best not to publish it in here.)

A report published by the World Health Organization, the United States isn’t the only country that has prevalent firearm-related suicides. Countries such as Argentina, Switzerland and Uruguay share the woe with the United States.

It seems like the data I presented there makes it rather conclusive that firearms provide an easier way for people to take their own lives although, I would really tend to disagree.

I majored and graduated with a degree in Psychology and suicide has always been a problem in the mental health community and with the progression of mental disorders (it is predicted that by 2020, Depression will be the second leading cause of disability) and suicidal ideations getting even more covert, suicide has always been and I reckon will always be a problem unless, of course, we improve our ways to the betterment of people dealing with mental health issues. Certainly, blaming guns – yet again – won’t solve mental health issues. Take guns off the picture and people with suicidual ideations and tendencies will try other methods and I can assure you, there is no shortage of them. In fact, there are 10 common suicide methods. Guns is just one of them. Although I understand people’s concerns about its lethality that firearms provide on people who are more than determined to end their lives but I think it would be unreasonable for me to believe that guns are the problem when it is incredibly apparent that lack of focus on mental health is the cause. Once we successfully tackle mental health care better, we can resolve this issue and greatly reduce suicide rates in general.

In fact, we are actually not handling this issue well. Psychiatrists are five times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, making them the field in medicine with the highest mortality rate. Physicians, on the other hand, are twice more likely to commit suicide in comparison to the general population.

So, what does suicide have that is highly correlative to guns? In my opinion, there virtually is none. Many Asian countries have very high suicide rates, such as Japan and Thailand, treat suicide as a major health concern because of how many individuals commit suicide and their primary methods do not involve guns. Hanging and overdosing controlled substances are the leading and most common methods of suicide in Asia.

The best question now is, what can we do about it? In my opinion, we have to try to combat the stigma and understand that suicidal persons have issues that are beyond their control. Most mental disorders stem from genetic, biological or chemical and environmental factors – factors which no one has a control of. We also have to understand that these individuals have reached their breaking point that the only way for them to deal with things is by taking their own life. All we really need is empathy, to try to understand their points of view. That can enormously contribute in dealing with the stigma surrounding this issue. Many of us fail to understand people’s trials and often judge and criticize who open themselves up and seek help. Unless we acknowledge their cries of help, suicide rates would not go down. Unless we seek ways of understanding and helping suicidal individuals, the statistics will always be a problem. That issue, I believe, is beyond firearms regulations issues therefore guns aren’t to blame as to why suicide rates are high.


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