A Plan to Prevent Gun Suicides

June 17, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

Scientific American

A gun safety coalition in New Hampshire made up of gun shop owners, public health experts, and mental health practitioners is working to reduce the risk of suicide death by firearm. After a series of suicides took place in 2009, the group formed around the goal of preventing suicide through the promotion of gun safety awareness. Based on research indicating that restricting access to lethal means may effectively prevent suicide in those at risk, the group created social marketing materials that encouraged gun shop customers to be aware of suicidal signs in friends and family and to limit their access to firearms during a crisis. One year after the materials were distributed, nearly half of gun retailers in the state still had them available for customers, which Catherine Barber of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center has called “a pretty incredible uptake, especially for a topic like suicide.” More than a dozen other states have taken up the New Hampshire model, adapting it to fit their context and needs. The hope is that messaging about gun safety as a suicide prevention strategy will gradually gain momentum. Barber has said, “Glancing at one poster isn’t going to do the trick. That’s like one time seeing a poster about designated drivers. But hopefully it’s lighting a match.”

Spark Extra! Want to learn more? Watch the Spark Talk, Common Ground: Reducing Gun Access.