Jan 19, 2013

Suicide and gun risk are worth checking out

Lately I've been reading blog posts and news items contending enhanced mental health gun purchase background checks will increase mental illness stigma or infringe somehow on a person's rights. I don't think so. I also believe that doctors who encounter people with mental illness must inquire about weapons in the home. The issue is risk. Not just a person's individual risk, but also risk to bystanders and first responders.

Suicide attempts are not just lonely tragedies with one potential immediate victim. The presence of weapons puts others in danger too. A good illustration is the report of the Portland Police Bureau's mental health calls for service from November 30, 2012 through mid-January 2013, which the Mental Health Association of Portland posted to its blog. http://www.mentalhealthportland.org/?p=18010

The report lists 27 separate incidents over 45 days. Seven of the incidents involved guns. Eight involved knives or swords. Most were incidents in progress. Many of these cases required police to disarm unstable people. These were dangerous events.

I believe recovery is about maximixing a person's capacities, reducing vulnerabilities, improving capacity to handle stress, and addressing the risk of something going wrong. I'm not pre-judging any particular individual's suitability to be a gun owner, but certain factors are known to indicate increased risk of suicide. People with these factors should not have access to lethal weapons. Suicide risk threatens others too.

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