18 February 2014

The easiest way to prevent teen suicide? Give up your guns

When it comes to suicide, guns are the weapons of choice, so make sure you’re not an enabler by handing in your gun during Teen Suicide Prevention Week.

Guns are 85% more lethal than any other means used to commit suicide. Gun Free South Africa urges gun owners to be responsible during Teen Suicide Prevention Week (16-22 February 2014) and hand in their guns to the police for destruction.  

Gun Free South Africa’s spokesperson, Adle Kirsten, "There are different ways to help prevent suicides, but one step is clear; reducing a suicidal person’s access to a lethal weapon helps save lives."

Just a week ago a double tragedy rocked St Alban’s College in Pretoria when a Matric pupil shot and killed himself; after which his mother, apparently unable to deal with her son’s death and using the same firearm, shot herself.

Read: Worried about your teen committing suicide? Look out for these warning signs

If there hadn’t been a gun in the family home it’s likely that both these deaths could have been prevented.

Most teens know the hiding place

This is so even if the gun was stored in a safe as required by law; as most teenagers know their parents’ hiding places so would know where to find the safe’s keys.

Guns are lethal. They’re quick. And they’re irreversible. Once the trigger is pulled, death usually follows within minutes.

What do statistics say about guns and suicide?

Firearms account for 14% of suicides in South Africa, with youth aged 15-29 years being most at risk for suicide (youth make up 36% of suicide victims, followed by adults aged 30-44 at 33%).

There are four male suicides for every female suicide. Latest research in America shows that people living in homes with guns are three times more likely to die from suicide compared to those living in homes without guns.

Most suicides occur during a crisis

While efforts to prevent suicide usually focus on the why people commit suicide, the how people attempt – the means they use – plays a crucial role in whether they live or die.

Read: Are SA Parents guilty of giving their kids loaded guns?

Over 70% of suicide attempts occur impulsively, during a crisis. Putting time and distance between a suicidal person and a gun may save a life.

"We urge gun owners to proactively prevent teen suicides by handing their guns in to the police for destruction," says Kirsten, noting that in the USA nine out of ten people who survive an attempt do not go on to die by suicide later.

Read more:

Everything you need to know about guns and suicide

Experts say guns really do increase suicide risk

Teen suicide: Why do they want to die?




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