Let’s talk about suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is one death by suicide every 12 minutes in the United States. Every 12 minutes, someone’s pain is so severe they can’t fathom any other way out of it and every 12 minutes friends and family are shattered by that decision.
Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in our country. Among ages 10-32, it’s the second-leading cause of death.
And firearms are the most common method of suicide.
My brother killed himself. He was 51. He used a gun.
When adults use their own weapons to end their lives, it’s a devastating loss. When a young person uses an adult’s gun to do it, the tragedy is multiplied.
In 2018, about 43 percent of U.S. households had at least one gun in possession, so the chance of a young person coming in contact with a weapon is not unlikely, and in light of the recent, heartbreaking suicides of teenagers struggling with the aftermath of school violence, parents and guardians should evaluate having a gun in the house with any child, teenager or young adult.
Don’t take for granted that your children would never hurt themselves. You may not be aware of all their struggles. It’s not uncommon for parents to underestimate the depth of their children’s anguish.
I have friends and family who removed alcohol from their homes during the years their children were most likely to experiment with drinking. It seemed like a logical way to try to keep teenagers sober and by default help avoid circumstances that could lead to the No. 1 cause of teen deaths: motor vehicle crashes.
By the same logic, parents should remove firearms from homes and cars where an adolescent might be able to get to them. Keep the gun at the range. Leave it with an adult relative. At a minimum get a gun safe and keep the ammunition locked in a different location.
Of course no home can be made completely suicide-proof, and I realize home protection is the reason many people keep guns. But crime statistics for our coastal area show that home invasions are rare. We are lucky to live in safe communities.
I know there are some who will push back on these suggestions. For others who might hesitate, ask yourself this question: Would you rather have your teenager or your gun?
Hug your children. Listen to them. They need all of us to be there for them in this increasingly chaotic world.
If you are in crisis, or know someone in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. Locally, dial 211.
— Mary Kate Leming,