I just heard SDPB’s Lori Walsh remark on air that when three state officials show up to her studio to talk about preventing suicide, we know the state is taking the problem seriously.
Well, if Governor Kristi Noem is serious about preventing suicide, she’ll invite lawmakers and the public to a discussion of the well-established connection between suicide and guns. Back in January we discussed the Boston University School of Public Health finding that a state’s rate of gun ownership predicts 55% of the difference in its suicide rate from other states’. Now Ohio State University researchers find a higher density of gun shops, as well as lack of health insurance and large populations of veterans are associated with higher suicide rates:
“Findings suggest that increasing social connectedness, civic opportunities, health insurance coverage, and limiting access to lethal means within communities have the potential to reduce suicide rates across the rural-urban continuum,” the study says. “Suicide rates in rural counties are especially susceptible to deprivation, suggesting that rural counties present special challenges and deserve targeted suicide prevention efforts.”
…Along with reducing access to lethal means among people at risk, Fontanella said, communities may benefit from enhancing coping and problem-solving skills and strengthening economic development, education and training, incentivizing mental health clinicians to work in underserved areas and using web-based telemedicine.
“Rural areas might also benefit from suicide prevention strategies that support social connection through community organizations and community engagement activities,” she said [Joanne Viviano, “Suicide Risk Linked to Guns, Veterans,” Gatehouse Media via The Ledger (Florida), updated 2019.09.09].
Reduce access to guns, expand access to affordable health insurance… hmmm those don’t sound like typical Kristi Noem policies. If she’s serious about stopping suicide, Governor Noem may have to rethink some major parts of her agenda.