SAFE HOMES™ creates a network of parents and community working together to encourage proper storage of firearms and prescription medication. Limiting access is one of the best strategies for reducing the risk of suicide as well as accidental death.
Follow this link to add your Pledge to SAFE HOMES SAVE LIVES™
Overview: Suicide was the 10th leading cause for death in the US in 2017 (SPRC data), and the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34 (CDC Data).
Our home is a place where we are meant to feel safe and secure. Sadly, about three-quarters of suicide incidents occur at home. Most (85%) die at the scene and never make it to the hospital (NVISS data).
Risk Factors for Suicide from the SPRC:
Risk factors are characteristics of a person or his or her environment that increase the likelihood that he or she will die by suicide (i.e., suicide risk).
Major risk factors for suicide include:
- Prior suicide attempt(s)
- Misuse and abuse of alcohol or other drugs
- Mental disorders, particularly depression and other mood disorders
- Access to lethal means
- Knowing someone who died by suicide, particularly a family member
- Social isolation
- Chronic disease and disability
- Lack of access to behavioral health care
- Risk Factors Can Vary Across Groups
Risk factors can vary by age group, culture, sex, and other characteristics. For example:
- Stress resulting from prejudice and discrimination (family rejection, bullying, violence) is a known risk factor for suicide attempts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.
- The historical trauma suffered by American Indians and Alaska Natives (resettlement, destruction of cultures and economies) contributes to the high suicide rate in this population.
- For men in the middle years, stressors that challenge traditional male roles, such as unemployment and divorce, have been identified as important risk factors.
What are lethal means and why is limiting access so important? Lethal means are Implements, substances, weapons, or actions capable of causing death in a person with suicidal ideation (e.g., medications, firearms, sharp objects). Many suicides take place during a period of crisis, as most people who die by suicide in the US did not make a previous attempt. Among those who survive, 90% will NOT go on to die by suicide later in life. Reducing access to lethal means can determine whether a person at risk for suicide lives or dies.
Limiting Access to Firearms: 30% of Americans own a gun, and two-thirds of American gun owners keep a firearm for protection. Sadly, two-thirds of all gun deaths in America are the result of suicide, and firearms are used in more than half of the suicides that take place in America (Pew Research Center Survey). Additionally, firearms were only used for defense in 0.09 percent of crimes according to a recent Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey. With that data in mind, it is much more likely that a person in crisis will use a firearm for suicide than need it for protection. Gun owners are not more likely to attempt suicide, but those with access to a firearm are much more likely to die by suicide. For that reason, it is imperative to limit access to a firearm during times of increased risk when an individual is in crisis.
Even if a gun owner is not at risk for suicide, secure firearm storage is important for multiple reasons. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34, and according to a recent study, 80% of children in America who die by suicide use a gun belonging to a family member. (Johnson RM, Barber C, Azrael D, Clark DE, Hemenway D. Who are the owners of firearms used in adolescent suicides? Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. 2010;40(6):609–611. Study defined children as under 18)
Limiting Access to Prescription Drugs: Proper storage of current medications and proper disposal of unused medications is a crucial step in suicide prevention.
According to the CDC, 81% of intentional poisoning suicides were caused by drugs – both legal and illegal. The most commonly used drugs identified in drug-related suicides were psychoactive drugs, such as sedatives and antidepressants, followed by opiates and prescription pain medications. Self-harm poisoning was the leading cause of emergency department visits for intentional injury in 2012.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) 47,600 people died from overdoses involving prescription or illicit opioids in 2017. But the opioid overdose epidemic is not limited to people with opioid addiction who accidentally take too much of a pain reliever or unknowingly inject a tainted heroin product. Concealed in the alarming number of overdose deaths is a significant number of people who have decided to take their own life.
Opiates (including heroin and prescription painkillers) were present in 20 percent of suicide deaths, marijuana in 10.2 percent, cocaine in 4.6 percent, and amphetamines in 3.4 percent (CDC, 2014b).
Proper storage and disposal of medications helps keep these potentially lethal substances from falling into the hands of individuals at heightened risk for suicide.
The Intersection Between Alcohol Use & Suicide:
Not only is alcohol a depressant, but alcohol use lowers inhibition and affects good decision making. Approximately 22 percent of deaths by suicide involved alcohol intoxication, with a blood-alcohol content at or above the legal limit (CDC, 2014b).
According to the National Foundation for Suicide prevention, Ninety-six percent of alcoholics who die by suicide continue their substance abuse up to the end of their lives. Alcoholism is a factor in about 30 percent of all completed suicides, and approximately 7 percent of those with alcohol dependence will die by suicide.
Youth and Suicide
Risk factors for suicide among young include suicidal thoughts, psychiatric disorders (such as depression, impulsive aggressive behavior, bipolar disorder, certain anxiety disorders), drug and/or alcohol abuse and previous suicide attempts, with the risk increased if there is situational stress and access to firearms.
Most of us have good intentions, but our attention is often directed towards whatever demands are currently present. It is difficult to be mindful of certain actions that don’t seem like an immediate concern. SAFE HOMES is a prevention effort, and prevention is about taking steps to make sure the worst-case scenario never takes place. Taking the SAFE HOMES’ pledge is the first step in making and maintaining a commitment to safely secure alcohol, prescription drugs and firearms to reduce the risk of suicide deaths. The pledge helps remind those who take it the importance of not only securing these potentially harmful items and substances, but also the importance of maintaining your mental health and fostering an environment where household members can speak openly about their struggles and be heard without judgment.
Protective Factors that Help Prevent Suicide from the SPRC:
Protective factors are personal or environmental characteristics that help protect people from suicide.
Major protective factors for suicide include:
- Effective behavioral health care
- Connectedness to individuals, family, community, and social institutions
- Life skills (including problem solving skills and coping skills, ability to adapt to change)
- Self-esteem and a sense of purpose or meaning in life
- Cultural, religious, or personal beliefs that discourage suicide
I want to take the Pledge and receive information and resources to protect my children and their friends from alcohol and drugs!