In February of 2011, professional football player Dave Duerson, also pulled the trigger on a handgun and ended his life. From the article:"Twenty years in the National Football League and he does not even make a few years of retirement before it ends like this for Seau, the way it ended not so terribly long ago for an old Chicago Bears safety named Dave Duerson, who also shot himself in the chest so that doctors could study his brain, find out the damage that a violent sport had done to him."
Then Dave pulled the green sheets up to his neck and propped himself up on his elbows. He held a .38 Special handgun to his chest and pulled the trigger.And a third professional football player, Ray Easterling, shot himself last month:
These recent suicides have led to a lot of discussion about brain injuries due to concussions suffered by not only football players but many in the sports world. Several of the athletes wanted their brains to be used for the study of brain injuries related to their sports injuries. How sad that it has come to that. As we learn more about the problems associated with sports injuries and most especially concussions, let's hope preventative measures will follow. Americans love the physical contact of sports like football and hockey. Many cheer when a player is checked hard into the boards at a hockey game or when a particularly hard tackle occurs on the football field. But what about the players at the other end of that check or tackle? We are now finding out that the consequences of the physical contact in some sports have led to serious problems.The 62-year-old, who police say shot himself at his home in Richmond, Virginia, played for the Atlanta Falcons during the 1970s and later sued the NFL over its handling of concussions.He began showing signs of brain damage 20 years ago with bouts of depression and insomnia.Then, the former safety developed symptoms of dementia as he lost the ability to focus, organise his thoughts and relate to people.His wife, Mary Ann Easterling, said she would continue the lawsuit in which she claims the NFL tried to cover up the danger of concussion.In the last year, the suicides of several sportsmen have been linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is caused by repeated blows to the head and often leads to bouts of depression and anger.Last year former Chicago Bears star Dave Duerson, who died in February 2011, was found to have the condition, which can only be diagnosed during a post-mortem examination.The brains of 50 sports stars have been donated to Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, which made the diagnosis.
Some of these athletes who have suffered from brain injuries due to that contact just cannot live with the associated disabilities and have chosen to take their own lives. There are, of course, other reasons for athletes and anyone else to commit suicide. People have found many ways to accomplish this tragic ending of life. But guns make suicide easier to accomplish. My husband's brother took a different route. He leaped off of a very high bridge into a gorge below. We will never forget. About the time we got over his death, my sister was shot to death by a suicidal man with depression and anger over a protracted and ugly divorce. But I digress.
I found this Wikipedia article about suicides and athletes. I checked the list of 57 professional and amateur athletes listed on this site who have killed themselves. There is also a sub category list of athletes according to sport with individual names of those who have committed suicide. It is sobering to read their stories. I took a look at the list of the 57 on this site who were not just American athletes, but from all over the world over the last century who have committed suicide. There is a common string among many of these sad cases. Athletes are under a lot of pressure to succeed. Many are injured along the way and suffer from career ending injuries. Many became alcoholics or drug abusers and some had domestic abuse problems. Some were women, most were men. There were golfers, divers, baseball and football players, figure skaters, jockeys, and others. Of the 57 on this list, 19 of them shot themselves. Some causes were unknown and some included poisoning, drug and alcohol poisoning, drownings, jumping from high places, suffocation, carbon monoxide poisoning, hanging and other methods. Of the women listed, none died of gunshot wounds.
Now let's look at suicides among American military. This article discusses the issue of military suicides in some detail. Veterans upon their return home from duty or during their tours of duty face all kinds of problems from mental health, lack of jobs, marriage problems, drug problems, etc. They are familiar with firearms and often use them to commit suicide. We are not doing enough to help these veterans and active duty military. The NRA would love for us to do nothing since they hate the idea that guns in the hands of the U.S. military could be dangerous. Mental health problems? Don't worry about guns. PTSD- no worry about guns. Domestic abuse among the military- don't think they would use guns. They are wrong, of course. From the article:
And further from the article:“Although only 1 percent of Americans have served in the military, former service members represent 20 percent of suicides in the United States,” the report stated.Military suicide has risen over the past 10 years. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that a veteran takes his or her own life every 80 minutes. However, the report’s authors say the true number is unknown.“As more American troops return home from war, this issue will require increasingly urgent attention,” the report summary warned.
And due to legal restrictions, commanders are not able to discuss privately owned weapons with their subordinates, even though studies indicate that preventing easy access to firearms is an effective form of suicide prevention.Indeed. Firearms account for most suicides. But we shouldn't talk about it with the military members? Really? That's an abrogation of our national responsibility towards our military members. How did this happen? What are the legal restrictions placed on the military and how did they become law? Read this article and you will find that the NRA was behind this one. From the article:
And further, from the article:The National Rifle Association pushed for the ban on personal gun restrictions earlier this year after learning these kinds of rules were being put in place locally at posts around the U.S. Chris Cox, director of the NRA's lobbying arm, said in a message to members earlier this year that it was "preposterous" that commanders at Fort Riley, Kan., wanted troops to register privately owned weapons kept on and off base.Cox also denounced a proposed military-wide plan that would require "troops to register all privately owned firearms kept off base, and would have authorized commanders to require troops living off base to keep privately owned firearms and ammunition locked in separate containers," he wrote.So, Cox wrote, the NRA and Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe collaborated on language in the defense bill that prohibits the secretary of defense "from issuing any requirement, or collecting or recording any information relating to the otherwise lawful acquisition, possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearm, privately owned ammunition, or another privately owned weapon by a member of the Armed Forces or civilian employee of the Department of Defense' on property not owned or operated by the DOD. It also requires, within 90 days, the destruction of any existing registration information prohibited by the Act."
According to data quoted in the CNAS report, 48 percent of military suicides in 2010 took place with personally owned weapons. "Multiple studies indicate that preventing easy access to lethal means, such as firearms, is an effective form of suicide prevention," authors Harrell and Berglass wrote.
This year's defense bill, which Congress could use to repeal the gun measure, is not yet law. It was passed in May by the House but awaits final action in the Senate. Although the NRA gun rights provision was little noticed when it was first included, the CNAS recommendations about its repeal could bring new attention to the issue if senators decide to try to act on this year's defense bill. Senate majority leader Sen. Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has said generally he'd like to move on the legislation before the end of the year, but it isn't clear when.So once again, we are paying allegiance to the extreme agenda of the NRA and ignoring the personal safety of our military members. What makes sense about this? The New England Journal of Medicine, not exactly a biased source, had a recent article about guns and suicides. From the article:
In 2005, the most recent year for which mortality data are available, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among Americans 40 years of age or younger. Among Americans of all ages, more than half of all suicides are gun suicides. In 2005, an average of 46 Americans per day committed suicide with a firearm, accounting for 53% of all completed suicides. Gun suicide during this period accounted for 40% more deaths than gun homicide.
Why might the availability of firearms increase the risk of suicide in the United States? First, many suicidal acts — one third to four fifths of all suicide attempts, according to studies — are impulsive. Among people who made near-lethal suicide attempts, for example, 24% took less than 5 minutes between the decision to kill themselves and the actual attempt, and 70% took less than 1 hour.2
Second, many suicidal crises are self-limiting. Such crises are often caused by an immediate stressor, such as the breakup of a romantic relationship, the loss of a job, or a run-in with police. As the acute phase of the crisis passes, so does the urge to attempt suicide. The temporary nature and fleeting sway of many suicidal crises is evident in the fact that more than 90% of people who survive a suicide attempt, including attempts that were expected to be lethal (such as shooting oneself in the head or jumping in front of a train), do not go on to die by suicide. Indeed, recognizing the self-limiting nature of suicidal crises, penal and psychiatric institutions restrict access to lethal means for persons identified as potentially suicidal.
Third, guns are common in the United States (more than one third of U.S. households contain a firearm) and are lethal. A suicide attempt with a firearm rarely affords a second chance. Attempts involving drugs or cutting, which account for more than 90% of all suicidal acts, prove fatal far less often.There is enough evidence to compel us to think seriously about the risks of guns in the home. More from the article:
Compared to other high income countries, the U.S. rate of gun suicide is very high. You can see some comparison charts here that show how much higher the gun suicide rate is in the U.S. than other high income countries. From the Brady Campaign comes this information about overall gun death rates and then gun suicide rates compared to other countries. From the article:Many ecologic studies covering multiple regions, states, or cities in the United States have also shown a strong association between rates of household gun ownership and rates of completed suicide — attributable, as found in the case–control studies, to the strong association between gun prevalence and gun suicide, without a counterbalancing association between gun-ownership levels and rates of nongun suicide. We recently examined the relationship between rates of household gun ownership and suicide in each of the 50 states for the period between 2000 and 2002.4 We used data on gun ownership from a large telephone survey (of more than 200,000 respondents) and controlled for rates of poverty, urbanization, unemployment, mental illness, and drug and alcohol dependence and abuse. Among men, among women, and in every age group (including children), states with higher rates of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicides. There was no association between firearm-ownership rates and nonfirearm suicides. To illustrate the main findings, we presented data for the 15 states with the highest levels of household gun ownership matched with the six states with the lowest levels (using only six so that the populations in both groups of states would be approximately equal). In the table
U.S. suicide rates overall were 30 percent lower than the other countries, but the U.S. firearm suicide rate was 5.8 times higher. The researchers concluded based on existing research on U.S. gun suicides, “…it is probable that the United States would have an even lower rate of suicide relative to these other countries if firearms were not so readily available.”In this article you can compare the U.S. to other countries by clicking on gun suicides and then typing in another country. So, for example, I used the 2005 figures for the U.S. which were 5.75 gun suicides per 100,000 to Canada for 2006 which was 1.79. Now let's look at Mexico. The latest figure available was for 2001 at .69. So then, how about Brazil? It was .74 in 2000. And what about Denmark? In 2006, the rate was 1.16. And then, maybe Australia will come close? Nope. In 2008 it was .79. Or the U.K.? In 2009 the rate was .16. I've heard that Finland has a high gun suicide rate. But in 2009, it was "only" 3.39- higher than some but not as high as the U.S. You can also see that suicides account for the largest number of gun deaths overall in American.
And finally, from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention we have this:
I suggest to my readers that we have a serious public health and safety problem in this country. Why is that? Guns make the difference. The U.S., if you check the chart in the linked article just above, has the highest rate of gun ownership of high income countries not at war. Common sense tells us that we could save lives if we had more education about the dangers of guns in the home. Instead, the NRA and its' minions and bought and paid for politicians, seem to think that more guns make us safer. More guns in the home for self protection will surely reduce the number of gun deaths. More guns carried by more people into more places will be just the ticket.Although most gun owners reportedly keep a firearm in their home for "protection" or "self defense," 83 percent of gun-related deaths in these homes are the result of a suicide, often by someone other than the gun owner.Firearms are used in more suicides than homicides.Death by firearms is the fastest growing method of suicide.Firearms account for 50 percent of all suicides.
The thing is, they are wrong. If you have a loved one with mental illness, who has just returned from a tour of duty or diagnosed with PTSD, you might think about whether it is a good idea for that person to have easy access to guns. If you have a child or teen who is having problems in school, with a relationship, is into drugs and alcohol, please think about where you store your guns if you have them at home or consider not having them in your home for a while. Kids and guns do not go well together, and most especially for suicides. If you have an elderly parent with dementia or other health problems, consider that guns in the home are not a good idea. If your good friend or relative is an athlete having problems with stress, head injuries, domestic abuse, etc., talk to them about guns and why they should not have them around readily accessible. If you have a friend or relative going through a difficult relationship break-up or the loss of a job, think about the danger of guns for both suicide and homicide. Often we read, as in the articles at the top, about murder/suicides. In many cases, the shooter is intent on committing suicide but they seem to want to take someone else or many with them on their way out (Columbine, Virginia Tech and many other mass shootings as examples).
The NRA doesn't like us to have this discussion. Why not? Because it doesn't fit with their guns everywhere mantra and their agenda to get guns into the hands of just about anyone and everyone. If we talked common sense, perhaps gun sales would go down? Who would that hurt? The gun industry? In the end, who does a gun hurt in the hands of someone who is suicidal and shouldn't have one?- the many victims of gun suicides, their loved ones and their friends. This is a matter of safety- not stupid and dangerous political agendas. Guns are lethal and dangerous. Whose side are you on?