Addressing mental health is a key part of preventing gun violence. It's important to remember individuals who suffer from mental illness are more likely to be the victims of gun violence than the perpetrators. Increasing access to mental health care, encouraging early treatment and intervetion, and reducing stigma will most definitely help in reducing injury and death from guns. It's also important to remember that the highest numbers of gun victims die from deliberate, self-inflicted gunshot woulds. Most mental illness is highly treatable, especially if recognized and addressed early, and suicide prevention works to save lives.
A CDC report released in August 2013, revealed that the metropolitan area of Salt Lake City has the #2 national rank for rate of suicide in all age groups. Suicide is the #2 leading cause of death in adolescents in Utah (compared to #3 nationally). [Source: Centers for Disease Control.] Guns are the primary method of completed suicides in the age range of 17 years and up. [CDC] And a little less than half of all teenage suicides in Utah are completed with a gun. [Utah Department of Health, Violence and Injury Prevention.]
With all the attention on mass shootings, it would be easy to assume that the mentally ill are to blame for the vast majority of gun violence. In reality only about 4% of perpetrators of gun murders are committed by someone with a severe mental illness. [Bureau of Justice Statistics] Most depressed and suicidal people do not pose a risk to others. However the majority of mass shooters are suicidal and plan for their own death as a part of their mass killing rampage. Keep in mind however that although there have been about two mass shootings a month since 2009 [NBC, September 2013], mass shootings comprise less than 1% of all gun murders in the U.S.
Advocating for Mental Health and Sensible Gun Legislation
It is estimated that more than half of those with a mental illness in Utah go without treatment [SL Tribune, April 2013], either because they do not have health care coverage or they lack adequate coverage. Also, there are many who do not seek treatment, possibly because of the stigma of mental illness, or because of wishful thinking that the problem will go away on its own. We advocate for increased access to and funding for mental healthcare, as well as reducing the stigma and denial associated with mental illness, so that people can and will be comfortable seeking professional care.
In addition to advocating for increases in funding and coverage for mental health care, sensible gun laws effectively help prevent suicide. States that require a background check on private guns sales have significantly fewer gun suicides (up to 49%), and no difference in rates of other methods of suicide. [Mayor's Against Illegal Guns, based on CDC 2010 information] A simple background check is a proven deterrent that keeps some suicidal individuals from acquiring a gun, possibly requiring them to pause and consider their permanence of their decision more deeply. Also it gives gun dealers an opportunity to qualify the potentially negative motives for gun purchases.
The Harvard School of Public Health has launched a suicide prevention program called 'Means Matter.' Instead of focusing on just the 'why' of suicide, this program focuses on the 'how,' as well as other factors. Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal means, especially firearms, is an important part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. For more information please visit their website at: Harvard.edu/Means-Matter
Utah Behavioral Health Crisis Lines
- Wasatch Front Crisis Lines
- Davis County 801-773-7060
- Salt Lake County 801-261-1442
- Utah County 801-373-7393
- Heber County 801-318-4016
- Weber County 801-625-3700
Other Utah Crisis Lines
Utah County Crisis Line 801-691-LIFE
Central Utah 877-386-0194
- Four Corners call 911; page on-call worker
- Northeastern Utah 435-828-8241
- Northwestern Utah
- Cache County 435-752-0750
- Box Elder County 435-452-8612
- Southeastern Utah 800-502-3999
- Southwestern Utah 435-634-5600
Know the Warning Signs:
- Suicidal ideation
- Excessive or increased substance abuse
- A feeling of having no reason to live
- Anxiety - which may present as agitation or insomnia
- Feeling trapped - that there is no way out
- Feeling hopeless
- Withdrawing from friends, family or society
- Dramatic mood changes
Seek help early and treat mental health issues before they escalate.