Gun Violence and Suicide

by | Mar 16, 2016 | Gun Violence Awareness

By Karl Henn

Suicide is a big part of gun violence. The Desert Southwest Conference Gun Violence Task Force believes that this is an important area where the Church is qualified to have an impact. To do that, we felt it’s important to learn more about it first. Let’s look at some of facts:

  • In 2010, in the United States, more than 19,000 of the 31,000 deaths from guns were suicides (that is 61%).
  • Suicide is the leading cause of gun deaths, but largely absent in debates on gun violence.
  • Suicide is an emotional issue for many people that could break the deadlock in Washington DC. (Pastor Michael McBride, Director of PICO National Network’s Lifelines to Healing Campaign)

Definition and Risks factors

Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Some of the Risk Factors of this complex issue are:

  • Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse
  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home
  • Incarceration, being in prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as family members, peers, or media figures

If we could summarize all of these risk factors into one word, it would be that a suicidal person feels that their situation is Hopeless. That’s why the Church is in such a good position to help in this area. Jesus is Hope. We hear it every time we are in the church and each member of the church should be displaying that we believe what we hear. We can not force people to participate in social events, but we can make make social events open for all to attend and participate.

Demographic Impact

Men are more likely to die by suicide, but women are more likely to attempt suicide. It is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 34. While older adults were the demographic group with the highest suicide rates for decades, suicide rates for middle aged-adults (ages 24 to 62) has increased to comparable rates. Of the various ethnic categories, American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) tend to have the highest rates of suicide.

Suicide Prevention

If someone you know is considering suicide don’t leave him/her alone. Try to get your loved one to seek immediate help from his/her doctor or nearest hospital emergency room, or call 911. Remove any access he or she may have to firearms or other tools to suicide, including medications. Collective efforts to reduce the incidence of suicide through preventive measures includes:

  • Reducing access to certain measures, such as firearms and toxins.
  • Adding barriers on subway platforms and bridges.
  • Treatment of drug and alcohol addiction and depression.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Economic development to reduce poverty
  • Efforts to increase social connection, especially in elderly males.

If you are interested in being a part of the conversation and efforts to end gun violence and suicide, contact Billie Fidlin, Director of Outreach at bfidlin@dscumc.org.


  • Sanger-Katz, Margot. “Gun Deaths Are Mostly Suicides.” The New York Times 8 October 2015. Web.16 March 2016.
  • CDC – Center for Disease Control
  • WHO – World Health Organization
  • AAS – American Association of Suicidology
  • NAMI- National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • NIMH – National Institute of Mental Health
  • SMH – Screening for Mental Health

Editor’s Note:

Karl Henn is from Willowbrook UMC, Sun City, AZ http://www.willowbrookumc.org

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