Ala. (WAFF) - September is Suicide Prevention Month, and with Alabama having one of the top 10 highest gun suicide rates in the nation, it is without a doubt an issue that deserves significant attention.
“If you look at suicide across the board in Alabama, more than two-thirds of all suicide deaths are by gun, which is incredibly, incredibly tragic,” says combat veteran Kyleanne Hunter.
COVID-19 has unfortunately amplified the problem.
“During this time of lockdown... there have been record numbers of gun sales,” says Hunter. “You have first-time gun owners that haven’t really gotten that community support... Usually there’s a sense of community around it, whether it’s at the shooting range or out going hunting, and those activities are missing right now. So, you have new guns plus isolation.”
That combination can be dangerous, but one way to address the issue, Hunter says, is to be honest about one’s mental health and to also talk about the importance of gun safety.
“Ask about guns. Ask about how they’re storing them, ensuring that they have a plan to store them safely,” says Hunter. “Storing your gun locked, unloaded and with ammunition stored separately can reduce the likelihood that somebody in your home is going to die by suicide by almost 70 percent.”
“Guns are a big part of our culture, and that doesn’t have to change,” says Hunter. “I’ve been around guns my entire life, but being open and honest and having these hard conversations – you know they’re hard, it’s hard to talk about guns, it’s hard to talk about struggling – but it’s harder to lose a loved one.”
Adam Friedman, who lost his grandfather to gun suicide, likewise says having conversations is so important in preventing this tragedy.
“Especially right now, during this time of COVID, when folks are anxious, stuck inside, uncertain about the future... it’s so important for us to be connecting with one another," says Friedman.
To those who may have already lost someone to suicide, remember that you too are not alone.
“I lost my grandfather to gun suicide when I was 13 years old," says Friedman. "What I would say to anyone out there who’s had that experience in the same way I have is to honor their legacy and think about how we can be there for other folks who might be going through a difficult period.”