The most important risk associated with guns and mental illness is suicide

The Gun Crisis Reporting Project was recently invited to participate in a hearing on mental health and gun violence before the House Committee on Human Services at the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg.

Many of the speakers addressed inaccurate media narratives and mistaken public perceptions about correlations between mental illness and gun violence.

I took part on a panel representing Resources for Human Development, the Philadelphia human services nonprofit corporation which houses the Gun Crisis Reporting Project in their New Beginnings Incubator. I was at the table by RHD Peer Support Coordinator Eric Larson, center, and David Dan, right, a fellow with Drexel University’s Center for Nonviolence and and Social Justice, and Editor of RHD’s One Step Away newspaper.

I took part on a panel representing Resources for Human Development, the Philadelphia human services nonprofit corporation which houses the Gun Crisis Reporting Project in their New Beginnings Incubator. I was at the table by RHD Peer Support Coordinator Eric Larson, center, and David Dan, right, a fellow with Drexel University’s Center for Nonviolence and and Social Justice, and Editor of RHD’s One Step Away newspaper.

According to the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, the discrimination and stigma associated with mental illnesses largely stem from the minds of the general public, adding that the link is often promoted by the entertainment and news media.

This focus unfairly singles out people with mental illness.

Only about four percent of violent crimes are committed be people with mental illness, according to a recent New York Times report, adding that they are 11 or more times as likely than the general population to become the victims of violent crime.

As several recent reports have pointed out, suicide is the most important risk associated with guns and mental illness.

In the U.S., firearms are the most common method of suicide and result in nearly twice as many suicides than homicides each year, according to the Huffington Post.

Another New York Times report points out that suicidal acts with guns are fatal in 85 percent of cases, while those with pills are fatal in just 2 percent of cases.

The state with the highest suicide rate in the U.S. is Wyoming, where the prevalence of guns in the home is the highest. According to the Baltimore Sun, there is a direct correlation between the availability of guns, their presence in the home, and suicide.

Means Matter at the Harvard School of Public Health agrees that access to firearms is a risk factor for suicide, adding that reduced access saves lives, and pointing out that 90% of attempters who survive do NOT go on to die by suicide later.

Are you in a crisis? Please visit: suicidepreventionlifeline.org:

No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

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