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You are Not Alone (Suicide is on the Rise): The Importance of Continuing Your Story

When bad days start to feel like bad weeks, know that you are not alone. In fact, the CDC reports that 3 out of 4 young adults are already struggling with at least one mental health concern. This includes anxiety, depression, trauma, adjustment to stressors, and substance use.

CARE-ing for a Friend/ Family Member with Suicidal Thoughts

The National Suicide Prevention Website lists a number of warning signs that can be helpful in recognizing if one is at risk for suicide. Knowing the warning signs, especially if behaviors are new or have increased as well as signs that seem related to a painful event, loss, or change are tell-tale signs.

In Minnesota, 4 out of 5 gun deaths are suicide

Juanita Jensen grew up in a gun family. She doesn’t hunt, but believes in the sport and is used to having guns around.

And as the parents of five children, Juanita and her husband were careful to follow all the rules for firearm safety: Keep the guns separate from the bullets. Lock up everything. Enroll their teen boys in gun-safety classes so they could learn to hunt responsibly.

But despite all of their precautions, they realized just how tough it is to keep guns away from someone who shouldn’t have one.

Most Americans are unaware that suicides — not mass shootings, other murders or accidental gun discharges — account for the majority of gun deaths in the United States, according to a recent survey from APM Research Lab. As many as three-fifths of gun deaths in the U.S. are the result of people intentionally killing themselves.

And in Minnesota, the statistics are even worse: 4 out of 5 deaths by firearms are suicides.

Four years ago, when Jensen’s second oldest was 19, he had a psychotic break and ended up in the hospital. (He didn’t want to talk to MPR News for this story and asked that we not use his name. We agreed to respect his privacy.)

The hospital kept him for three days — what’s known as a 72-hour hold — to see if he might hurt himself or somebody else. Hospital staff didn’t say anything to him or his parents about guns when they sent him home. And with the family’s emphasis on gun safety, and Jensen’s worries about their son’s health, it didn’t occur to her.

“They don’t send you home with … a packet, you know, that said, ‘Listen, the hold is over. We’re gonna discharge him. Here are some meds, just things are good,’” she said.

That was in the spring. By the beginning of the summer, Jensen’s son was worse. Her husband was so concerned that he quietly took the guns — and the ammunition — to her brother’s house in another city.

Then one night in June of 2015, one of their sons woke them up with a gun. “Please do something with this,” she says he told them. He told his parents his brother was upstairs “trying to take his life.”

The 19-year-old had gone to Walmart and bought a shotgun, they learned. His brother had found him just in time.

Red flag laws
Seventeen states have passed red flag laws, which let families petition to have peoples’ guns taken away if there’s reason to believe that they would hurt somebody. In Minnesota, red flag bills have come up in the Legislature a few times, but none have gone through. Some states have seen a drop in suicides as a result of red flag laws.

The night he tried to kill himself, Jensen’s son ended up in the hospital and eventually was committed. That means he was under a court order to follow certain rules, including one that barred him from having firearms. In his case, it was the first time any kind of oversight about guns kicked in.

Commitments are handled at the county level; they require an elaborate set of rules that guarantee the person due process, including medical exams and a judge.

The problem is even though the statute says clearly that a person who is committed may not have guns, it doesn’t say how to get the guns away from the person. So, people like Theresa Couri, who helps handle commitments at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, are left trying to figure out what to do.

During the commitment process, her office sometimes finds out that the person has a gun or has access to a gun.

When that happens, Couri said, it’s important to get it away from the person. But doing that can be complicated.

“So, what my staff attorneys often do,” she said, “is contact a family member, they will contact a spouse, if it’s a young person, a roommate,” and ask them to go to the house — or wherever the weapon is — to retrieve it.

If they can’t find somebody close to the person, then attorneys call the local police and have them take the weapons.

“I don’t feel that doing nothing is appropriate, so our lawyers engage in activities that I think are consistent with the statute,” said Couri, who was not involved in the case of Jensen’s son. “The statute says a person committed is ineligible [to have a gun]. If we know there’s a gun, we should be taking some action, in concert with law enforcement, to do our best to effect that part of the statute.”

The other thing that happens when a person is committed, whether they are known to have access to a gun or not, is that the person’s name gets reported to the FBI. It’s then added to a confidential list that licensed gun dealers have to check before they sell somebody a gun.

Who can buy a gun?
Kory Krause, who owns the Frontiersman Sports gun shop in St. Louis Park, said would-be gun buyers are required to fill out a form that asks for the person’s identifying information. It seeks not just the basics like name, birth date and address, but also things like height, weight and race. And it includes a checklist of potential disqualifiers, including whether the person has been convicted of a felony or committed to a “mental institution.”

The gun shop submits the form to the FBI, which then has three days to respond, either giving permission for the person to buy, denying it, or asking for more time. The list is confidential so when a person is denied, neither the seller nor the buyer are told why. Krause said it’s rare that a person who knows he’ll be denied bothers to try buying a gun.

What does happen, though, is people who want to hurt themselves will occasionally come in to buy a weapon. And if they’re not on the list, then it’s up to Krause and his employees to recognize the potential danger and stop the sale.

Krause said he’s never gotten any official training to identify somebody in a mental health crisis, and that he and his employees rely on experience and intuition. They might get suspicious if, say, an old man comes in and wants a revolver and only one or two bullets, or if the person physically can’t operate the gun.

He said if he thinks a person might try to hurt himself, he’ll refuse to sell and call the police to check on the person. But he knows a person who is suicidal will at times slip through.

“We know that when they walk out that door, what they do with it could be good or bad,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate component of the business.”

There are other loopholes or gaps that let people get guns when they shouldn’t, including private sales, which aren’t subject to background checks.

Juanita Jensen’s son is doing better, following the rules of his treatment and living on his own. He could eventually petition the state to be allowed to have guns again.
This reporting is part of Call to Mind, our MPR initiative to foster new conversations about mental health.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingofSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.

If you or someone you know has had guns taken away because of mental health concerns or if you have tried unsuccessfully to get guns taken away from somebody because of mental health concerns, we’d like to hear from you: aroth@mpr.org or 651-290-1061.

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SOURCE: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/10/07/in-minnesota-4-out-of-5-gun-deaths-are-suicides?utm_campaign=MPR+News+-+AM+Edition_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=sfmc_&utm_content=

Suicide prevention text services expand statewide in MN

Life-saving services will reach more people throughout Minnesota

April 2, 2018
Contact:
Media inquiries only
Sarah Berg
Communications
651-431-4901
Minnesotans across the state can now access suicide prevention and mental health crisis texting services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As of April 1, 2018, people who text MN to 741741 will be connected with a trained counselor who will help defuse the crisis and connect the texter to local resources. The service helps people contemplating suicide and facing mental health issues.
Minnesota has had text suicide prevention services since 2011, but they have only been available in 54 of 87 counties, plus tribal nations. Crisis Text Line will offer suicide prevention and education efforts in all Minnesota counties and tribal nations, including, for the first time, the Twin Cities metro area.
“It’s important that we reach people where they are at, and text-based services such as Crisis Text Line are one vital way to do that,” said Human Services Assistant Commissioner Claire Wilson. “It’s especially crucial that we reach youth with these services, and we all know that texting has fast become a preferred way of communication.”
Crisis Text Line, a non-profit that has worked nationally since 2013, is the state’s sole provider for this service as of April 1. Crisis Text Line handles 50,000 messages per month — more than 20 million messages since 2013 — from across the country, connecting people to local resources in their communities. For callers who are in the most distress, the average wait time for a response is only 39 seconds.
Crisis counselors at Crisis Text Line undergo a six-week, 30-hour training program. Supervisors are mental health professionals with either master’s degrees or extensive experience in the field of suicide prevention.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 also provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources.
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How Do We Get The Men Into Mental Health?

*Trigger Warning*: Suicide

Note: This blog is presented as a cross-collaboration between NAMI and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, whose mission is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. It originally appeared on the AFSP Lifesavers Blog.

Dude. Dudes. It’s time for some real talk. Let’s get real here and look at the numbers. According to the latest figures from the Center for Disease Control, men are responsible for 76.92 percent of all completed suicides. Basically, about four out of every five completed suicides is a guy.

Yet here in South Carolina, where I’m on the local state board for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I notice that every time we do a public mental health awareness program, about 80 percent of the attendees are women. A lot of these women show up because they’ve lost a loved one to suicide, and much of the time, the loved one they’ve lost was a man.

The numbers tell us a lot of men out there are suffering…but most men aren’t showing up to get help, raise awareness, or help encourage their fellow bros to talk about what they’re going through.

I’d like to ask all the women reading this blog post to leave the room for a minute.

Are they gone? Cool. Dudes, it’s just us now. Let’s talk.

I’ll start.

I lost two brothers to suicide. That’s right. Two. 11 years apart. Mark and Matthew. After the second one, I found myself in a very dark place. Sobriety, counseling, and time have helped me immensely, and in 2010 I started to volunteer for AFSP, and this has accelerated my recovery even further. It has taken me years to get to this point, but when you start helping other survivors of suicide loss and start focusing on preventing future occurrences of completed suicides, you ultimately end up helping yourself. My work with AFSP has benefited me greatly on a personal level, but I am still very bothered by what is happening with men and suicide.

So, I’m going to turn this around on you now, and ask for your help. First, a couple questions:

  • Why is the number for male suicide so high?
  • How do we lower it?

I personally think the first step is for us dudes to become more comfortable talking about it. How can we get our fellow men to open up? First of all, let’s realize that when we show vulnerability, we are actually showing strength. We need to focus on forming some really tight connections with each other. Once those are in place, we need to get comfortable sharing real life situations, knowing full well that two (or more) brains are better than one. How do we get our other dude buddies to feel comfortable doing this?

For me, I am involved in a faith-based, men’s-only group that meets every Friday. We in the group have grown together to a place where we are quite comfortable admitting to each other when we’re screw ups, or when we’re worried about something…but that has taken some time. That’s just one example. I saw recently that the construction industry is including mental health into their meetings, and the NCAA is addressing mental health issues through their Sport Science Institute. Progress!

Maybe another tactic is to keep things light. One thing I’m thinking about doing is hosting a men’s only comedy night with a mental health theme. Laughter helps people feel relaxed. Maybe if we guys can sit around, talk about feelings – I know, a lot of us hate that word—in a light way, it can help us become more comfortable opening up.

Another thought I had in terms of encouraging our fellow men to join our efforts in suicide prevention is to not make it too time consuming. Men tend to volunteer in spurts. We’ll do a golf outing, but mention a three-year commitment to a board and most of us are out the door. It’s important to remember that we can all get involved within the constraints of our own personal comfort zone. Every little bit helps. Dip your toe in the pool. The water’s warm.

No matter what strategies we use, the overall message is simple: mental health and suicide are okay to talk about, and we all matter. Talk Saves Lives.

So, what are your thoughts? If you’re a guy and have been impacted by mental health conditions or possibly a suicide attempt or a loss, reach out for help, or come help us at AFSP. Get off your duff and find your local chapter and volunteer for something — anything! Even just making a point to talk matter-of-factly about mental health and feelings (jeez, that word again!) with your friends makes a difference, because it lets them know you’re a safe person to talk to when they have something to say.

Women – I can see you’ve stepped back in, now, that’s okay – do what you can to drag the men in your life to a community walk, a survivor’s meeting, or somewhere you feel they can benefit from, but might not feel comfortable going to themselves. Many of us will not do it without your help.

Finally, think about ways we can better reach men about suicide prevention, and share your ideas. Come at us with all you’ve got. If we want to lower the suicide rate 20 percent by 2025, we’ve got to put the men back into mental health.

By Dennis Gillan | Sep. 08, 2017