MASSACHUSETTS: Program at William James College Tries to Reduce Veteran Suicide by Focusing on Relationship to Guns

August 04, 2023

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News


A college program is training mental health professionals how to talk about reducing access to guns with veterans at risk of suicide. The one-day program is held monthly at William James College in Newton, Massachusetts, and attended by mental health students, clinicians, social service providers, and veterans’ family members. Run by three veterans, the program aims to help students better understand veterans’ relationship to guns and get more comfortable talking about it. Through class instruction and role play, students learn how to have conversations with veterans in crisis about their access to guns. Students learn strategies for creating time and space between individuals and firearms, such as locking guns up, separating them from ammunition, or transferring them outside of the home. The program also covers how to develop a safety plan with veterans at risk of suicide. According to program instructors, these conversations should be collaborative and help the veteran decide which strategies work best for them. Instructors hope that once students have a better understanding of where veterans are coming from, veterans will see that clinicians and loved ones do not want to take their guns away but keep them safe in a crisis.

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