Despite all of the recent gun control discussions – from assault rifle bans, to background checks, to high-round magazine bans – there has been a deafening silence on one of the issue's biggest problems: mental health.
Take a look at some statistics. Out of the 31,000 gun-related deaths in 2010, 19,000 of them were suicides. That’s almost 2/3 of the death toll, yet no one in DC is talking about it.
According to the Huffington Post, the suicide rate has exploded over the last decade, rising by 28% from 1999-2010. Out of the 30,000 annual suicides – which equates to one suicide per 45 attempts – 19,000 of them are from guns. That statistic should seem like déjà vu, as it is almost identical to the percentage of gun deaths that were from suicides.
Regardless of your place on the political spectrum, the correlation between guns and suicide cannot be ignored. As I said above, only in one in every 45 suicides is successful. But when guns enter the equation, this ratio changes drastically. The reason? Not many people survive a self-inflicted gunshot. A 2008 Harvard study found that the availability of lethal means, especially firearms, contribute directly towards whether suicide attempters live or die. A study by the Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center found that gun ownership rates correlate to suicide rates too. In states with high gun ownership rates, such as Wyoming, suicide rates are higher. In states with low gun ownership rates, suicide rates are lower.
Gun induced suicides are a huge problem, but what is the solution? I can tell you one thing for certain – politicizing the issue is the last thing we should do. Whether you are pro-gun or anti-gun, this is way too important a subject to let rational discussion be inhibited by how you vote on a ballot. Yes, guns can be used as a dangerously effective method for suicide. But you know what? People in good mental health don’t commit suicide, whether they have a gun or not. And for that matter, people in good mental health don’t walk into movie theatres and start shooting people, either. For as big of an issue as gun control is, these statistics should tell you that mental health is equally, possibly even more, important.
Mass shootings and historically-high suicide rates are not the mark of a nation in good mental health. The gun control debate is incredibly important for both Republicans and Democrats, but let’s drop it for just a moment. We’ve been gridlocked over it for months. Let’s take a brief, common-sense induced moment and start taking steps towards fixing the mental health issues that cause people to use guns violently in the first place.
This should be something we can all agree on.