September is National Suicide Awareness Month. Let’s talk about it. Gun suicide, on average, claims the lives of 23,000 Americans each year. Maine has one of the highest rates of suicide by gun in the nation. A staggering 89 percent of gun deaths in Maine are suicide deaths. The ongoing pandemic, the surge in gun sales and the severe economic downturn is likely to make this public health crisis far worse. Three common-sense bills proven effective at reducing suicide in our state failed in the Maine Legislature last year. Evidence shows that secure storage laws, waiting period legislation and extreme risk (red flag) laws save lives. Easy access to firearms triples the risk of death by suicide. The fact is that most people who attempt suicide do not die — unless the attempted means is by a gun. Without a gun only 4 percent of suicide attempts result in death. When a gun is involved, the lethality increases to 90 percent.
Most who survive a suicide attempt do not attempt a second time. Keeping guns out of the hands of those in crisis is critical to saving lives. Let’s elect policy makers who are not afraid to talk about the issue of suicide and gun violence, especially with the rising rate suicide by gun among teens and veterans in Maine. To know where your candidates stand, visit gunsensevotor.org. And please, if you or a family member are in crisis, please remove firearm access until the crisis is averted, and know that help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 or the Maine crisis hotline at 1-888-568-1112.