Gun Violence and Suicide Prevention: What AMSA Members Can Do

September 24, 2021

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide or is in crisis, reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741-741.

In recognition of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month this September, our Med Students for Gun Safety (MSGS) campaign is shining a light on one aspect of suicide prevention – firearm safety – and highlighting what both medical and pre-medical students can do to help. 

The Facts

Here at AMSA we know that we must first understand a problem before we can make a difference. We’ve provided some key information to help guide your efforts in getting involved.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is an opportunity to learn, talk openly, share resources, and amplify the voices of survivors and loved ones of suicide attempts. All month long, mental health advocates and organizations are united in sharing stories and resources to inform the public about efforts to combat this problem. To learn more about the epidemiology of suicide in the US, take a look at the facts and figures provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Gun violence is particularly important when we think about addressing suicide from a public health perspective. In the US, nearly two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides, which averages to more than 60 deaths per day. Furthermore, roughly half of suicide deaths occur by means of a firearm, despite only accounting for five percent of life threatening suicide attempts. To compound this relationship, research has consistently shown that firearms are the most lethal suicide method.

When we think about the intersection of suicide prevention and gun violence prevention, it’s also vital to be aware of the complex social and political inequities and factors that result in disparities in who is most at risk

Some Solutions

Many experts recommend that approaches to preventing firearm-related suicide must be multifactorial: changes need to occur at individual-, group-, community-, and society-levels. Although this might seem overwhelming at first, our MSGS campaign is here to provide some specific steps that we can take as future medical professionals to do our part during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Support the #BeThe1To Movement. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline wants all of us to be the ones to: ask; keep them safe; be there; help them connect; and follow up.

Take 5 Steps to help prevent suicide in our communities.

  1. Learn the Signs
  2. Know How to Help
  3. Practice Self Care
  4. Reach Out
  5. Spread the Word

Ask your school to provide training on Lethal Means Safety Counseling. Healthcare professionals need to know how to identify individuals at risk of suicide, assess whether they have access to lethal means such as firearms, and work to reduce this risk. By working with faculty and staff at our institutions, AMSA members can ensure that we are getting the training we need to be successful healthcare providers.

Advocate for change with MSGS. Email us at msgs.chair@amsa.org to get involved in our gun violence prevention efforts, both in our medical education system and at the political level!