Officials discuss firearm suicide risk increase during COVID-19 pandemic

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) – While COVID-19 is the most prominent health emergency right now, the United States continues to face an enduring public health crisis; firearm suicide.

West Virginia has the highest firearm suicide rate in the country, according to research from the most recently released Centers Disease Control and Prevention data. In 2018 in West Virginia alone, there were 257 firearm suicide deaths.

Experts explained that gun violence and the pandemic are inevitably connected. While Americans are stuck at home, many might be in closer proximity to guns for longer periods, and even under normal circumstances the risk of having a gun at home is already high.

For more information, statistics and a full list of resources for those in need, visit the Prevent Firearm Suicide website. The national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Dakota Jablon is a Suicide Prevention Specialist and explained that factors caused by COVID-19 like jobs being lost, bills needing to be paid, people getting sick and being isolated from everyone else can increase the thought of suicide for anyone.

“Just being a gun owner doesn’t make you more suicidal, it’s the fact of having a gun, unlocked, unloaded, at home, easy access, while experiencing these other risk factors, that creates that, suicidal risk,” said Jablon. “So, that’s why it’s so important for people to, if you are keeping a gun in the home, that your practicing safer firearm storage.”

Jablon mentioned there are websites like Lock to Live out there to help if someone is concerned about a loved one during this time.

“The most important thing to do is make sure you come from a place of love and help, rather than attacking them. It may be awkward but saying something and having that awkward conversation is better than you saying nothing.”

Dakota Jablon, Suicide Prevention Specialist

“I actually had this talk with a friend and it was extremely uncomfortable. At the same time I knew I was helping to keep her safer, and she actually did remove the firearm from her home completely.”

Guidelines for coping with COVID-19 from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Right now with many gun stores remaining open across the country, officials hope to get across to owners, so they can have suicide prevention material for people and to provide gun storage safety tips for costumers, especially during the pandemic.

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