Recent Data Analyzed by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund Finds That the COVID-19 Pandemic Could Result in Increased Daily Gun Suicides
Resources for Journalists on Responsibly Covering Gun Suicide are Available Here
NEW YORK — Everytown and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statements to mark the beginning of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Firearm suicide can be prevented, and one of the most effective things we can do to help people in crisis is to keep a gun out of their hands. Most people who attempt suicide do not die—unless they use a gun.
Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a rise in calls to suicide prevention lifelines across the country. By May, the National Crisis Text Line reported a 40 percent increase in traffic —about 100,000 conversations a month. Today, people are still isolated, anxious, and struggling financially due to COVID-19, and the risk of suicide is elevated. In fact, recent data analyzed by the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund found the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis could bring a 20 to 30 percent increase in firearm suicides in the U.S. this year, resulting in 20 additional gun suicides per day in 2020 without immediate action.
“Gun suicide is a public health crisis in the United States, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the related economic fallout is only serving to exacerbate it,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “This Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we honor survivors and advocate for solutions to stop our gun suicide epidemic.”
“My family knows the pain of having someone taken by gun suicide and the stigma that often comes with it,” said Mia Livas Porter, a volunteer with the California chapter of Moms Demand Action and a member of the Everytown Survivor Network whose brother died by gun suicide. “Gun suicide is a preventable public health crisis. This month, survivors are gathering virtually, sharing our stories, and advocating for common-sense gun safety laws that will save lives.”
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people and has steadily increased over the last decade,” said Alyssa Goldberg, a volunteer with New York Students Demand Action. “As the school year begins many students, like myself, are spending their days learning online, with some being away from friends and much needed social interaction. This September we are committed to registering voters, so come November lawmakers who have not taken steps to end both of these public health crises will be voted out.”
This September, Everytown for Gun Safety is honoring gun suicide survivors and advocating for proven solutions to prevent gun suicide including extreme risk laws, waiting period legislation, secure storage of firearms, and increased access to mental health and medical services.
More information on gun suicide here. To speak with a policy expert, Moms Demand Action volunteer and/or Students Demand Action volunteer, please do not hesitate to reach out.
By covering this public health crisis, reporters can inform readers about life-saving resources and highlight policy solutions, but they should do so in a way that does not increase stigma or contribute to possible contagion effects. If your news organization decides to cover these tragedies, please consider following the advice below for journalists covering suicide.
The recommendations below are from the Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide website, which was developed by suicide prevention experts, international suicide prevention and public health organizations, schools of journalism, media organizations and key journalists as well as Internet safety experts:
- Report suicide as a public health issue. Including stories on hope, healing, and recovery may reduce the risk of contagion.
- Include resources. Provide information on warning signs of suicide risk as well as hotline and treatment resources. At a minimum, include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Crisis Text Line (listed below) or local crisis phone numbers.
- Use responsible language such as “died by suicide” or “killed him/them/herself,” rather than stigmatizing and shame-inducing “committed suicide” language.
- Emphasize help and hope. Stories of recovery through help-seeking and positive coping skills are powerful, especially when they come from people who have experienced suicide risk.
- Report the death as a suicide; keep information about the location general.
- Report that coping skills, support, and treatment work for most people who have thoughts about suicide.
- Describe suicide warning signs and risk factors (e.g. mental illness, relationship problems) that give suicide context.
- Research the best available data to show the scope of suicide and use words like “increase” or “rise.” instead of words that can overstate the problem.
- Provide context and facts to counter perceptions that the suicide was tied to heroism, honor, or loyalty to an individual or group.
The full list of recommendations on how to report on suicide is here.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24/7. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
You may also contact the Crisis Text Line, which provides trained crisis counseling services over text 24/7. Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the US crisistextline.org.
Free and confidential mental health, suicide prevention, and crisis intervention services and resources are also available to people in-need of help, loved ones of those in-need, and frontline workers through the Pandemic Crisis Services Response Coalition at https://www.covidmentalhealthsupport.org.