New Report Reveals That Some Congressional Districts Have Fewer Than 10 Firearm Suicides Per Year While Others Have Over 100 — All With Similar Population Sizes
Recent Data Analyzed by the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund Found the Economic Fallout from the COVID-19 Crisis Could Bring 20 Additional Gun Suicides Per Day in 2020 Without Immediate Action
Another Report Found Firearm Suicide Increased 56% in the Last Decade Among Youth Between the Ages of 10-24
NEW YORK — A new report from Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund (“Everytown Support Fund”) details the number of annual firearm suicides for each U.S. congressional district in the U.S., illuminating regions where this crisis is particularly acute and providing critical new data for elected officials and their constituents alike. The findings, which come amid widespread concerns from suicide prevention advocates of the risks posed by the pandemic’s economic and social impact, include:
- The 20 congressional districts with the highest rate of firearm suicide are found across 16 states, all in the U.S. West and South.
- Eleven congressional districts have over 100 gun suicides each year.
- Seventeen congressional districts have 10 or fewer, an encouraging finding that could help in the development of prevention strategies.
- The rate of firearm suicide is highest in rural districts with mostly white or American Indian populations and higher levels of firearm ownership.
“The more we learn about this crisis, the more equipped we will be to tackle it,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, director of research at Everytown Support Fund. “This new data tells us that any strategy to reduce suicide in the U.S. must make it harder for people in crisis to get their hands on guns. These findings make clear just how acute this public health crisis is in many places, and they also remind us that there are interventions that really work. Firearm suicides are preventable through action.”
“Suicide by firearm can be prevented using effective strategies and making gun owners aware of the risks of access to firearms while in a crisis,” said Colleen Creighton, CEO of the American Association of Suicidology. “The data in this report takes that one step further and allows us to see what’s working, how we might implement those strategies in places particularly affected by firearm suicide, and gives us focus to work together to save more lives.”
“This new data makes clear what many of us in the survivor community have learned through our experiences — that this is a crisis that extends across state, regional and political boundaries,” said MaryMiller-Strobel, an Everytown Survivor Fellow whose brother took his life with a gun. and a volunteer with the Michigan chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We have so much work to do, but the good news is we’re learning more and more about interventions that save lives. I hope this reminds policymakers about how urgently we need to act.”
“This new research confirms what we already knew — that firearm suicide is a preventable public health crisis,” said Carrson Everrett, a volunteer with Tri-Cities Students Demand Action in Tennessee. “As students continue to be isolated, anxious, and have their lives in flux due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to have new research understanding the best ways to prevent suicide during this time.”
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 might be struggling financially due to COVID-19 and the risk of suicide is elevated. In fact, recently released data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 say they’ve considered suicide in the past month because of the pandemic.
Preventing suicide in the U.S. requires a multi-faceted approach that includes the following recommendations:
- Promoting gun storage practices for secure storage and voluntary, temporary removal of guns such as the Be SMART campaign teaching parents to keep firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition.
- Enacting policies that are proven to limit the easy and immediate acquisition of firearms such as extreme risk laws, waiting period laws, and background checks on all gun sales.
- Establishing education campaigns to build awareness about the risk of firearms for people who are in crisis. These efforts, in addition to public outreach to gun owners and non-gun owners about secure firearm storage and the availability of crisis support resources, should be continued and expanded.
- Expanding and increasing access to mental health and medical services including strengthened access to suicide prevention services, can help prevent a rise in suicide deaths. The CDC recommends providing medical benefits, ensuring coverage of mental health and substance use treatment in health insurance policies, increasing the number of medical and mental health providers in underserved areas, and providing lethal means counseling in health care settings.
- Providing economic support to mitigate suicide risk: Studies have found that U.S. states that offer higher-than-average unemployment benefits over time offset the impact of unemployment on suicide. The CDC’s recommendations for suicide prevention highlight economic support programs and policies that mitigate suicide risk factors by reducing the strain of paying for basic expenses on families.
- Funding for federal research on firearm suicide: Key areas for further research include: better understanding of where and when people who attempt or die by suicide obtained their firearms; how societal, economic, and relationship factors may reduce firearm suicide risks; and how to identify and mitigate risk among high-risk individuals in clinical settings.
- Having conversations about how to act on warning signs with family, friends, and others can play a role in suicide prevention. By recognizing the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, loved ones are able to be more effective in preventing suicide. If you think someone is in distress, asking them if they are having thoughts of killing themself could save their life.
Resources for journalists on responsibly covering gun suicide are available here. More information about gun suicide here. To speak with an expert or volunteers with Moms Demand Action, and / or Students Demand Action, please do not hesitate to reach out.
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.