How to help a troubled loved one with a gun

November 14, 2023 – If you have a loved one who is experiencing mental distress—and they have a gun—there are ways you can help protect them from harming themselves or others, according to experts.

It’s often friends and family who first see that something is off with a loved one, said Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Cathy Barber in a November 6 GBH article. “It’s those who love them who will notice that they’re withdrawing, that they’re feeling trapped, that maybe they’ve gone through a horrible divorce or an arrest that’s making a depression worse,” said Barber, senior researcher at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and founder of the suicide prevention program Means Matter.

Barber offered a suggestion for what to say to a loved one if you think they may pose a threat to themselves or others: “I know these guns are important to you. I’m worried for your safety, for your life. I wonder if we could put them in storage for now, or if we can change the combination on the safe until you’re back to normal?”

Barber’s suggested language avoids arguments about the guns themselves, but instead focuses on lowering the potential threat. She is working with the Gun Owners’ Action League, based in Northborough, Mass., on a video that will educate firearm users and their families on the warning signs that suggest risk of suicide or aggression toward others.

Read the GBH article: You’re worried about a loved one with a gun. What can you do?

Learn more

Partnering with gun owners to prevent suicide (Harvard Chan School news)