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LTTE: The correlation between gun violence and suicide

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. Letters to the Editor reflect the view of a member of the campus community and are submitted to the publication for approval.

To the Editor,

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While gun violence is a topic that always makes the headlines, the majority of deaths that happen with a firearm are actually from suicide. Research has shown that our murder rate has gone down as our suicide rate continues to rise.

September has come and gone as Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, but we need more than a month of awareness for this crucial issue. As a society, we need a cultural shift in how we think, speak and engage in preventing suicide.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with a 50% increase in girls and women within the last decade. Colorado also has one of the highest rates of youth suicide, becoming the leading cause of death in our state for individuals between the ages of 10 and 24, according to a report by the State of Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

According to Center for Health Journalism, “There is little scientific evidence that media campaigns reduce suicide, with mounting evidence that they don’t.” While it isn’t a bad thing that there is public knowledge of and attitudes toward suicide awareness, having the knowledge is clearly not enough.

Awareness alone will not solve suicide.

While it’s a controversial topic in the U.S., one of the greatest ways to prevent suicide is to limit access to firearms. The most evidence-based and conceptually-sound recommendation for suicide prevention, recommended by clinicians, is to remove firearms from the home.

If we are not ready to restrict access to firearms, we need to talk about how we are going to take steps to create a shift in our culture to talk about suicide openly.”

While reducing access to firearms can prevent suicide, we also need to dig deeper into why we have such a high rate of suicide in the first place.

We live in a culture that still stigmatizes mental health. Suicidal thoughts are a protective mechanism that can be very normal for a person to experience. They are not a sign of weakness, rather a warning sign that something needs to change.

We need a culture less concerned about protecting the Second Amendment and more willing to engage in empathy.

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We need to take suicide seriously, not making it shameful with the idea that suicide is selfish. We also need to change our language in how we speak about suicide, and we need folks to have better access to mental health services.

If we are not ready to restrict access to firearms, we need to talk about how we are going to take steps to create a shift in our culture to talk about suicide openly. With a sense of hope, we can end this epidemic. 

Suicide is 100% preventable, but prevention needs strategies that require work at the individual, systemic and community level. We need a holistic, integrated approach to suicide that includes both awareness, education, community engagement, policy change and access to mental health services.

There is a cure for suicide — let’s be brave enough to talk about it.

Sincerely,

Ruth Krug 

Second-year graduate student, social work

The Collegian’s opinion desk can be reached at letters@collegian.com. To submit a letter to the editor, please follow the guidelines at collegian.com

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