Since 1999 suicide deaths in the state of Ohio have risen by 36 percent. Locally the four county area has experienced an increase in the number of deaths, with 26 of our community members dying by suicide in 2017. Mirroring the data at the national and state level, Defiance, Fulton, Henry and Williams counties continue to lose middle aged men between the ages of 35 and 64 years old. What’s striking about this fact is that while this age group makes up roughly 19 percent of the general population, they represent nearly 45 percent of all suicides.
Clearly middle aged males are over represented among those who die by suicide. The question is, why? There are many factors that can contribute to suicide among middle aged males. Untreated depression, the disruption of an intimate relationship, a significant health diagnosis, the loss of a job and access to firearms can all be precipitating factors. Among these factors, one of the most potent is access to firearms. According to 2016 data from the Center for Disease Control, 53 percent of all U.S. suicide deaths are the result of a gun, with use of a firearm being the preferred method for males across all ages. It has been widely reported that women attempt suicide more often than men, but because males often choose firearms as the means, the result is more deadly.
The conversation surrounding guns and suicide is a challenging one. While it is important to mitigate the means for anyone at risk for self harm, a citizen’s right to bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So how can we bridge this gap? Part of the solution may lie in a budding partnership between local firearms retailers, the gun sporting community, and the Four County Suicide Prevention Coalition (FCSPC). Over the past year, the FCSPC has reached out to sporting clubs and firearms retailers, asking them to display and share information on gun safety related to suicide prevention. The information encourages individuals in the community to remain aware of signs and symptoms of depression and suicide risk in themselves and their peers. Firearm retailers are asked to share information on the subject developed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, as well as CCW practice targets that include the local crisis and suicide prevention hotline. As Tonie Long of the Four County ADAMhs Board and member of the FCSPC says, “The message is we’re not anti gun, we’re anti suicide. We are thrilled to be partnering with the firearms community, and hope that through this partnership we can encourage folks to start talking about suicide. We need to break the stigma that surrounds mental health issues like depression, so that we can get people the help that that can save lives.”