Saving lives through suicide prevention

May 19, 2016

Those who have suffered from severe depression know that the world can turn into a dark place. In the last decade, 10,000 Washingtonians took their own lives, and half of them did so using a firearm. Nationally, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young adults between the ages of 15 and 24.

Fortunately, new resources are constantly being introduced to help, including Harborview Medical Center’s Pacific Northwest Suicide Resource Center, launched by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (HIPRC). The program is a library of digital resources that raise awareness and offer support, especially to teens, to help save lives. The program also includes a survey of King County Schools to identify suicide resource needs in King County public schools.

The program focuses on firearms specifically due to their high rates of fatality to those who attempt suicide using them. About 85 percent of gun-related suicide attempts result in death, while only 5 percent of all other methods combined do the same. The program encourages safe firearm storage, as restricting access to lethal means is considered a critical component of evidence-based suicide prevention strategies, and it is widely recommended by mental health and public schools professionals.

Among the resources available are suicide statistics, warning signs and misconceptions, and links and phone numbers for those who are in crisis. The program also leverages social media, with the hashtag #EndSuicideWA, as recent related studies have shown that gun owners are increasingly active in the digital realm. There is also early research that shows gun violence can be predicted via social media. At a recent community-based firearm injury prevention event sponsored by HIPRC and Seattle Children’s Hospital, nearly 50 percent of participants reported learning about the event from social media.

Suicide is absolutely preventable, and programs like the Pacific Northwest Suicide Resource Center use proven methods to save lives. Preventing suicide is fundamental for fostering a healthy community. Click here to read more about the program and its strategies, and click here to view the resource library. (Tim Pfarr)


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