How To Talk About Guns And Suicide | Emmy Betz | TEDxMileHigh

How To Talk About Guns And Suicide | Emmy Betz | TEDxMileHigh

Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Elena Crescia For the last ten years, I’ve worked as a doctor
in an emergency department. And people often ask me, “What’s the most
unbelievable thing you’ve ever seen?” We do see some very weird things, but my job is not nearly
as dramatic as it might seem on TV, and those strange cases
are actually pretty rare. What has been surprising to me, though, is that every single time I work
in the emergency department, I talk with people
struggling with depression, and with thoughts of killing themselves. And it really feels like to me
we don’t talk about suicide enough, probably because of the stigma that’s
still attached to mental health issues. So, I started doing research
and public health advocacy related to suicide prevention,
and that has led me here today. It has also led to some very odd
dinner table conversations with my family, and I still have to remind myself that suicide prevention
is not a typical topic of conversation at cocktail parties. (Laughter) But I actually think maybe it should be, because I think we’ve got
to start talking about this. And so, today I’m really hoping
to give you all some ideas about how you can help save lives, because we have a lot of work to do. Suicide now causes
twice as many deaths every year as car crashes do. And suicide death rates
appear to be going up at the same time that death rates
from car crashes are going down. In Colorado, a healthy and happy state, we actually have one of the highest
suicide rates in the country. Now, we don’t hesitate to tell our kids
to never drink and drive, or to ask a car dealer
about safety features. Yet, we might hesitate
to ask a troubled friend if he’s had thoughts of suicide. But the research tells us
that asking that question will not cause suicide. When I talk with patients
who are suicidal, I tell them that I’m there
to listen, and to help, and that I’m really glad they came
into my emergency department, but I also ask them a question,
an important question, that I think we all need to be asking
anyone at risk of suicide: “Do you have access to a gun?” And to explain to you why I think
we need to be asking this, I’d like to share with you
a few facts about suicide. The first is that most suicides
are impulsive. In a study of people
who survived a near fatal attempt, over two-thirds said
that it was less than one hour from the time that they
decided to kill themselves to the time they took action. And a quarter said
it was less than five minutes. Certainly, there’s often a period
of depression or mental anguish leading up to that point, but the final decision
is often an impulsive one, and it often occurs
during a time-limited crisis, like a breakup of a relationship. The second fact is that being suicidal
is not a terminal illness. We know from research that, of all people
who survive a suicide attempt, only one in ten later go on
to die by suicide. The other nine don’t. And we know that most people
who are considering suicide are unsure and ambivalent,
and that those who survive an attempt are ultimately happy to be saved. The third fact is that guns are, by far,
the most lethal method of suicide. For every ten people
who attempt suicide using a gun, nine will die. That’s a much higher death rate
than any other method of suicide, and it’s a much higher death rate
than many of the diseases that we fear most. And because of that, having a gun in the home actually
increases the risk of death by suicide. And guns are now responsible for over
half the suicides in this country. And the fourth fact
is that we know from research that temporarily limiting access
to lethal methods of suicide, like guns or bridges to jump off of,
can help save lives. If a suicidal person doesn’t have access
to a particular method, that person is not automatically
going to switch to a different method. So, we need to talk about this because there are actually
some really simple things that we can do to help protect people at risk of suicide. It’s just like, if a friend
has had too much to drink, we hold on to his car keys
until he’s sober and safe to drive again. In the same way, if someone is troubled
and considering suicide, we can work with him to store his gun
with a friend or a family member, or somehow lock up the gun in the home in a way that he doesn’t
have access to it. Now, I know that talking about guns
might feel like entering a minefield, given the current political debates
over gun control. But the thing is this is not political. This is about helping protect the people
we love, the people we care about, when they’re in times of crisis. And I think probably most of you, like me, at some point have been worried
that a friend, or a coworker, your teenage daughter,
your elderly father, your stressed-out husband,
someone near to you was at risk of suicide, or you maybe have been
considering it yourself. And you may have been unsure
how to help the person, or how to ask for help, and you may have worried
about finding the right words, but the thing is that you might
be able to help save a life just by asking questions. And the wording of those questions doesn’t matter nearly
as much as showing that you care. So, the next time
that you’re worried about someone, I hope that you’ll ask two questions: I hope you’ll ask the person
if they’re having thoughts of suicide, and I hope you’ll pick up the phone
to call the Colorado Crisis hotline. It’s available 24/7 for free,
and professional counselors are happy to hook people up
with the services they need. But I also hope that you’ll ask
if the person has access to a gun, and if so, you’ll work
with them to find a way to temporarily limit access to it. Because I think that those are really
important questions worth asking. Thank you. (Applause)

8 comments on “How To Talk About Guns And Suicide | Emmy Betz | TEDxMileHigh

  1. Suzy Allexan Post author

    Very well said and all true. Let's keep the conversation going and be brave enough to ask the two questions!

  2. Art Beeler Post author

    I have worked in criminal justice for forty years; the tough "love" she talks about is just as relevant in dealing with offenders many who have experienced trauma and violence.  Thanks for this talk.

  3. jo jezierska Post author

    If one doesn't have the right to commit suicide, then one doesn't have the right to one's own life. Obfuscating such a right through what a person might think after the fact is akin to intellectual meanderings on potentiality: ie, wondering what an aborted baby would be like in twenty years, and whether such an aborted baby would be happy to be alive. It's nonsensical, and smells of post-hoc reasoning.

    Furthermore, guns are one of the most expedient means to end one's life that currently exist; the story might be different if we truly allowed assisted suicide for anyone regardless of age / condition / etc. (perhaps even after a waiting period of let's say six months to make sure the person was sure of her/his decision) Reporting suicidal thoughts is a sure way to get deprived of one of the best ways to end one's life, and hence such goes unreported in many cases.

    One is borne into a life that he / she didn't ask to be borne in, there should at least be a grudging respect for those who want out; contrary opinions notwithstanding. This might go against the intuitions of many reading this, but if we don't have the right to end our lives, then I often wonder if we actually own ourselves at all.

  4. COZMICTOM Post author


  5. M Chambers Post author

    Note how recent gun control laws requiring "universal background checks" and limiting the number of gun transferred per month have blocked friends and family from holding onto guns for a loved one whom may be suicidal.


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