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Suicide, Guns, and Public Health

Most efforts to prevent suicide focus on why people take their lives. But as we understand more about who attempts suicide and when and where and why, it becomes increasingly clear that how a person attempts–the means they use–plays a key role in whether they live or die.

“Means reduction” (reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal means) is an important part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. It is based on the following understandings (click on each to learn more):

Firearm access can be a politically-charged topic. This website, however, is designed to introduce a non-controversial, “lethal means counseling” approach to reducing a suicidal person’s access to firearms and other lethal means.

Our Mission

The mission of the Means Matter Campaign is to increase the proportion of suicide prevention groups who promote activities that reduce a suicidal person’s access to lethal means of suicide.

Latest News

January 2013

Firearm Dealers Playing Active Role in Suicide Prevention

Nearly half (48%) of all independent gun shops in New Hampshire have been displaying or disseminating suicide prevention materials developed by the New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition and Means Matter.  The Coalition is a diverse group of firearm dealers, gun rights advocates, and mental health/public health professionals with a shared interest in firearm safety. During National Suicide Prevention Week earlier this month, the Coalition launched Suicide Prevention: A Role for Firearm Dealers and Ranges. Read more about the project here, and visit the Coalition website to download materials.

Newtown Tragedy

The tragic shootings in Newtown CT in December–in which a 20 year-old shooter used his mother’s guns to kill her, 20 school children, five other adults, and himself–underscore the importance of getting the message out to gun-owning families to be alert to signs of suicide and crisis among family members. If a family member may be at risk of harming himself or others, take steps to store household guns away from home, either temporarily if the crisis is a short-term one or more permanently if the problems are more chronic. (Locking the guns up at home is also an option, but not as safe since the family member may be able to find the keys or combination to the locks.) Families can also learn about mental health resources for their loved one by calling the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Upcoming Presentations

Matthew Miller and Catherine Barber will address a half-day educational meeting of the Greater Boston Regional Coalition for Suicide Prevention on Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 9am-12 noon, Harvard School of Public Health (Kresge Building, Rm G1) 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA. The two presentations include Means Restriction: A Public Health Approach to Suicide Prevention AND Reducing a Suicidal Person’s Access to Lethal Means: What Your Suicide Prevention Group Can Do. More info.

Catherine Barber will be featured on a Well Aware webinar Thursday, January 17, 3:00-4:00pm EST, titled Suicide Safety: Reducing a Suicidal Person’s Access to Firearms.

Who We Are

The Harvard Injury Control Research Center is dedicated to reducing injury through training, research,intervention, evaluation, and dissemination. The Center has published hundreds of studies on injury topics ranging from motor vehicle crashes to alcohol use to youth violence and suicide. The Center is part of the Harvard School of Public Health.

The Means Matter Campaign is funded by The Joyce Foundation and the David Bohnett Foundation.