Resources for Journalists on Responsibly Covering Gun Suicide are Available Here
NEW YORK — Everytown and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statements to mark the beginning of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Firearm suicide can be prevented, and one of the most effective things is disrupting access to a gun. Nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides, resulting in an average of 64 deaths a day. Most people who attempt suicide do not die—unless they use a gun.
The deep economic downturn caused by COVID-19, combined with the millions of guns already in homes and the millions more being purchased during each month of the pandemic, is a volatile mix that could exacerbate the risk of firearm suicide. Researchers continue to be worried about the surge of gun sales, the number of unsecured firearms at home, and the ongoing stress and anxiety of our communities— especially among young people and veterans whose rates of gun suicide have risen over the past decade.
“Gun suicide makes up two-thirds of our gun violence epidemic and with such easy access to firearms in this country, there are no signs of it slowing down,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “It’s not enough for our lawmakers to send thoughts and prayers for gun violence anymore. We need them to take action during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month to honor gun suicide survivors across the country.”
“Having a loved one die by suicide is something that stays with you forever,” said Linda Cavazos, a volunteer with the Nevada chapter of Moms Demand Action and a member of the Everytown Survivor Network whose brother died by gun suicide. “Everyday I fight to make sure my brother’s story is heard. This Suicide Prevention Awareness Month I am not only speaking out for my brother, but for the millions of other survivors in our country who have also had a loved one stolen from them due to gun suicide.”
“My older brother, Ben, was my best friend and a mentor to me,” said Andrew Rose, a volunteer with Students Demand Action in Idaho and an Everytown Survivor Fellow whose brother died by gun suicide. “His death is a constant reminder of the deadliness of unencumbered access to a firearm at a moment of crisis. Every day, I fight to make sure no other families have to feel the pain my family continues to feel.”
This September, Everytown for Gun Safety is honoring gun suicide survivors and advocating for proven solutions to prevent gun suicide including extreme risk laws, laws and programs that promote secure firearm storage such as Be SMART, public awareness about the risk posed by guns in the home and how to mitigate those risks, and resources to prevent this tragedy in all communities.
More information on gun suicide here. To speak with a policy expert, Moms Demand Action volunteer and/or Students Demand Action volunteer, please do not hesitate to reach out.
By covering this public health crisis, reporters can inform readers about life-saving resources and highlight policy solutions, but they should do so in a way that does not increase stigma or contribute to possible contagion effects. If your news organization decides to cover these tragedies, please consider following the advice below for journalists covering suicide.
The recommendations below are from the Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide website, which was developed by suicide prevention experts, international suicide prevention and public health organizations, schools of journalism, media organizations and key journalists as well as Internet safety experts:
- Report suicide as a public health issue. Including stories on hope, healing, and recovery may reduce the risk of contagion.
- Include resources. Provide information on warning signs of suicide risk as well as hotline and treatment resources. At a minimum, include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Crisis Text Line (listed below) or local crisis phone numbers.
- Use responsible language such as “died by suicide” or “killed him/them/herself,” rather than stigmatizing and shame-inducing “committed suicide” language.
- Emphasize help and hope. Stories of recovery through help-seeking and positive coping skills are powerful, especially when they come from people who have experienced suicide risk.
- Report the death as a suicide; keep information about the location general.
- Report that coping skills, support, and treatment work for most people who have thoughts about suicide.
- Describe suicide warning signs and risk factors (e.g. mental illness, relationship problems) that give suicide context.
- Research the best available data to show the scope of suicide and use words like “increase” or “rise” instead of words that can overstate the problem
- Provide context and facts to counter perceptions that the suicide was tied to heroism, honor, or loyalty to an individual or group.
The full list of recommendations on how to report on suicide is here.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24/7. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
You may also contact the Crisis Text Line, which provides trained crisis counseling services over text 24/7. Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the US crisistextline.org.
Free and confidential mental health, suicide prevention, and crisis intervention services and resources are also available to people in-need of help, loved ones of those in-need, and frontline workers through the Pandemic Crisis Services Response Coalition at https://www.covidmentalhealthsupport.org.