This Unprecedented Program Supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Project 2025 Goal to Reduce the Annual Suicide Rate 20 Percent by 2025
Of all firearms-related deaths in the U.S. in 2015, almost two-thirds were suicide deaths, according to the 2015 Fatal Injury Report, Center for Disease Control and Prevention. To help stem this tragic loss of life, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) today announced at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas a partnership to launch a new firearms and suicide prevention education program nationwide in 2017.
The program brings together AFSP community-based Chapters and NSSF-member organizations, including firearms retailers and range owners across the country, to educate the gun-owning community about suicide, warning signs, risk factors and the importance of securely storing firearms to help prevent access in times of distress. A pilot of this program has been ongoing in four states since August 2016.
“Of all suicide deaths in our nation, nearly 50 percent are by firearm. By increasing public education of firearms and suicide prevention, and by encouraging the use of safe storage options and thus reducing access to lethal means, we give suicidal individuals something they desperately need: time. Time for the intense suicidal risk to diminish and time for someone to intervene with mental health support and resources,” said Dr. Christine Moutier, AFSP’s Chief Medical Officer at a press conference today at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, the largest trade show in the world for professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries. “Research has shown that separating suicidal individuals from a variety of lethal means can prevent suicide.”
Firearms retailers and range owners are in a unique position to help disseminate mental health and suicide prevention education materials, and safe storage options to those who frequent their stores. With these public education resources, the firearms-owning community can help spread the word to those who may be concerned about a friend or family member who may be at risk, and who may have access to a firearm.
“Our partnership with AFSP allows us to expand our decades-long firearms safety efforts to include suicide prevention education,” said Steve Sanetti, NSSF’s President and CEO. “As the industry’s trade association with more than 12,000 members, we want to help. By making gun owners and the public more aware of suicide and responsible firearm storage, we are confident that we will help save lives.”
The firearms and suicide prevention program is an expansion of a pilot that began last August, in four states including Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, and New Mexico. In these four states, relationships between AFSP Chapter volunteers and local shooting range owners, firearms retail stores and gun show vendors shared resources on recognizing the risks and warning signs of suicide and ways of reaching out to those who may be struggling, including:
- Talk Saves Lives: Firearms and Suicide Prevention, a community-based presentation that provides an overview and understanding of mental health and suicide, and the benefits of connecting with those who may be struggling.
- Firearms and Suicide Prevention, a new brochure which includes sections on safe storage options, statistics about suicide, how to recognize the risks and warning signs of suicide, how to reach out to someone when you’re worried about them, and where to go for further resources.
- Firearms and Suicide Prevention: Facilitator’s Guide for AFSP volunteers involved in the program who need instructional information on leading community-based programs.
- A new webpage which will showcase an overview of the firearms and suicide prevention program and the latest news. The organizations are currently creating a short training video on how to have a caring conversation with someone who may be suicidal, which will be featured on the webpage, and is due to be released in spring 2017.
“When I first heard about this partnership I was really encouraged. Working with experts in the field, we have been trying to teach gun owners about suicide prevention on a local level for a while – and so far it’s been a bootstrap effort, recruiting one firearms retailer at a time. But by expanding the education and suicide prevention program nationally, we will have a much easier time convincing retailers to get involved because NSSF is a name they trust,” said Dick Abramson, President and CEO of the Centennial Gun Club in Colorado. “At a weekly ladies’ night we hold at the Centennial Gun Club, we have already brought in a suicide prevention expert to speak on this topic. The questions asked were insightful and the audience was extremely interested. So we know there is a real thirst in the community for this kind of education.”