By Sofia Lynch
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find someone in this day and age whose life has not been impacted by suicide in some form, yet still, as a society, we continue to push the topic under the rug. One million people commit suicide throughout the world every year, according to the World Health Organization – that’s one suicide every 40 seconds.
Suicide is also the third highest killer of 15-24 year olds, following behind accidents and homicides, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Still, suicide remains stigmatized and thus undiscussed. Proof of this stigma is evidenced by the fact that 39 percent of people reported seeing suicide as “weak,” according to Debate.org.
In the issue of gun policies, a topic that has been consistently broadcasted for more reason than one, suicide seems to be once again brushed to the side as a minute part of the issue. Gun access is actually one of the key factors of so many young americans taking their lives. In fact, almost half of all suicides in the U.S. are committed by use of firearms, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Many gun-right activists have made the point that suicide exists with or without guns. While it’s true that suicide will inevitably exist regardless of gun laws, easy gun access exacerbates an already troubling issue. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, states with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicide, establishing the correlation between gun-access and the likelihood of suicide.
The United States has 88.8 guns for every 100 citizens, according to a 2007 report by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey, surmounting to about 35-50% of the world’s civilian owned guns. Non-coincidentally, the U.S. firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population, according the UCLA School of Public Health. Yet, of the average 92 people killed on a given day in America, 58 of those deaths were gun suicides, compared to the 30 some lost to homicide.
An undeniable correlation exists between the presence of guns, and the persistence of suicide. It is no coincidence that our country has so much of the world’s firearms and so much of the world’s gun violence as well. Suicides accounts for 60% of those Americans lost to gun violence, but since it is so veiled in deep stigma, the issue of suicide is continually put on the back burner.
Guns create a permanent ending to possibly temporary issues, in the matters of homicide and suicide. Many suicide ideations are spurred from momentary problems – sometimes issues that may blow over with a good night’s rest. However, if a suicidal person owns a gun, or lives with someone who does, now they have a way a quick, permanent way to take their life – rather than run the risk of surviving with a less immediate method.
9 out of 10 people who survive a suicide attempt will not go on to attempt it again, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. However, guns take this second chance out of the equation.
When someone takes their life, there always seems to be a line that news outlets, and everyday people as well, must walk in attempt to not somehow promote future suicides, while also being respectful to those who have passed. Tip-toeing around the subject has however lead us nowhere.
Suicide rates amongst 15-24 year olds have tripled in the past half-century, and it’s our responsibility as a society to start turning the tides on this issue before more lives are unnecessarily lost. Continuing to bury the topic of suicide will only lead to more ignorance on this issue, and ignorance is the root of the problem. If we keep treating suicide like dirty laundry, instead of raising awareness, then people will continue to suffer in silence. And as is with most things, the first step to fixing something is coming together and recognizing the problem.