MT efforts to fight suicide include reducing 'lethal means' access

MT efforts to fight suicide include reducing access to 'lethal means'
Posted at 9:01 AM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 11:01:01-04

HELENA — Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) reports that one Montanan dies every 54 hours due to gun-related suicide.

Compared to other states in the United States, that is four to eight times higher than states with enhanced firearm safety laws.

To help save lives, the Lewis and Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition and Lewis and Clark Public Health have rolled out the Safer Communities Montana program.

Some of the key focuses are reducing lethal means, such as securing firearms and prescription drugs.

"63 percent of all suicides that occur in Montana involve a firearm, but we also know that 70 to 90 percent of suicide attempts nationally involve overdoses. So we want to try and get it from both angles to make sure that people are protected," said Jess Hegstrom, Suicide Prevention Coordinator for Lewis and Clark Public Health.

WEB EXTRA: Jess Hegstrom

DPHHS also reported in 2019 7.5 percent of Montana suicides involved prescription drugs.

Hegstrom added that Montanans need to be aware of the side effects of pills they are taking, such as suicidal ideation.

"Learning their medication, if their pharmacist is aware, so that those things are locked up, so there isn't a possibility of a tragedy," she said.

Highlighting the importance of lethal means and securing both medication and firearms is essential in reducing the suicide rate.

"To make sure that people don't have access to means like firearms or medication when they are at that acute point of struggling. Because we know that most people the time to make an attempt and the actual attempt is five minutes to an hour," said Hegstrom.

Others in the community are also taking a stand, like business owner Ed Beall of Capitol Sports in Helena.

"I thought about how suicide has affected my life, and I have definitely people in my life that have encountered suicide," said Beall.

Beall continues to state that gun owners should store their firearms for safety and responsible gun ownership, "There are ways to store a firearm safely where they are still obtainable to you, for personal defense or in an emergency."

Additionally, Beall says there are several easy steps a gun owner can take, "There is a gun trigger lock, a cable lock, a cabinet or a safe, there is something that will work for you."

If you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, please reach out.

The Montana Suicide Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 or you can text “MT” to 741 741. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Additional suicide prevention and support resources can be found here.

Caution: If you are experiencing an emergency (immediate danger of harm to self or others), please call 911.