Guns are the single most frequent cause of suicide deaths nationwide and in Colorado. 79% of gun deaths in Colorado in 2015 were suicides. A forum in Boulder on November 13th explores the connection between guns and suicide.
Barbara Trager and Stephanie Greenberg, with Bonai Shalom in Boulder are organizers of the event. They say that the statistics around gun and suicide often surprises people. “It’s a statistic that often surprises people…because you do think of mass murders, you do think of drive by shootings in urban neighborhoods. People are surprised by it. We were surprised by it.”
Trager says that suicide and gun violence are inextricably intertwined “if you want to do something about one, you must take into account the other.”
The state of Colorado has been working on a public health campaign around guns and suicide but encouraging safe storage and working with gun sellers around spotting mental health problems with people who are buying guns. Stephanie Greenberg says that using a public health message can be a way to reach out to gun rights advocates. This past Summer they had a booth at the Boulder County Fair with brochures on gun safety and gun control. “I had a couple of people come by and say “are you against guns?” and I said “no, we’re not, we’re just trying to keep people safe, we’re trying to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.” And immediately both people said “oh, ok, that’s ok then” and looked through the brochure and were very interested. And just breaking through that barrier of for and against and looking at it from a public health, public safety perspective, what I found could really build bridges.”
The connection between gun violence and suicide is explored in a panel discussion on Sunday November 13th from 2-4pm at Congregation Har HaShem, 3950 Baseline Road in Boulder.
It will feature Jarrod Hindman, violence and suicide prevention section manager at CDPHE; Andrew Romanoff, President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado and former Speaker of the Colorado State House; Jenny Hecht, Therapist and coordinator of Boulder County Sources of Strength youth risk prevention program; Melodi Billera, clinical social worker, Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center for VA Suicide Prevention.