Sharing – Suicides make up majority of gun deaths, but remain overlooked in gun violence debate

Trigger warning – discussion of suicide attempts. If you are struggling, please call 988 in the US or a helpline in your country.

There is a lot of media coverage about guns in America, but this part is underrepresented in all of that coverage.

Suicide is the leading cause of gun-related deaths in the United States. But it’s often only an afterthought in the public debate about gun violence.

The thing about having easy access to guns is how effective a gun is when it comes to someone struggling with suicidal thoughts.

“Most suicide attempts in the U.S. are by overdose or poisoning things like sleeping pills or Tylenol or opiates,” Nestadt said. “And yet those are usually non-fatal. Only about 2% of people that make an attempt by overdose die. But firearms, which are only used in about five or 6% of attempts, are so lethal that if you happen to have access to a firearm, when that impulse comes and you use that firearm, the chance of death is 90%.”

There is also another important point made in this article:

“There’s this myth that if someone is suicidal and is thwarted in some way or is able to survive the attempt, that they’ll just keep trying, that they’ll just find some other way. But that’s not what the data shows,” Nestadt said. “In fact, the majority of people, about 94% of people who survive a serious suicide attempt continue to survive.”

To be blunt, these numbers tell us one thing. Anyone who is in a moment of despair where they are considering taking their life with access to a gun will likely be dead that day. People in similar moments of despair without access to a gun might be dead but most likely will survive and go on after surviving the attempt.

I’m one of those people. Trying to take my life was a desperate attempt to escape my pain. It was not well thought out. It was something I hacked together late at night while sitting in my car along the Pacific Ocean, where I only had access to what was in the car with me, which turned out not to include any effective tools to take my own life. When it didn’t work, I started looking for other ways to escape the pain, landed in therapy, and eventually got to a better place.

If there was a gun in my car that night, there’s a 90% chance these words would not be written.

When I think about the gun control debate, this is what I think about. I think about how many people are no longer here because there was a gun available to them in their lowest moments. This has to be part of the discussion.

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