The firearm suicide panel, from left to right: Jennifer Stuber (Forefront), Chuck Aposhian (Utah Shooting Sports Council), Ralph Demicco (Gun Owners of New Hampshire), Cathy Barber (Means Matter) and moderator (Elaine Frank, MHS). Photo credit: Ted Alcorn

Safer Homes preview at firearms plenary at 50th Annual American Association of Suicidology Conference

As suicidology ushers in the next bicentennial era of suicide prevention, a universal message for safer homes is poised to become part of the future.

“We have the potential for enormous suicide prevention messaging saturation in Washington State,” said Forefront’s Jennifer Stuber last Friday at the firearm panel for the bicentennial American Association of Suicidology (AAS) conference.

The presentation, which also explored the vision of zero barriers to safe storage and disposal, gave a preview of the Safer Homes Suicide Aware campaign and various upcoming training programs for firearms retailers, pharmacists, healthcare professionals, and behavioral health care professionals.

With Utah Shooting Sports Council and Gun Owners of New Hampshire both representing on the panel, a theme of innovative partnerships emerged.

Stuber noted that the old suicide prevention paradigm aims to intervene with those at risk when it is nearly too late, whereas in the new paradigm, “it’s important how people die, and addressing dangers pre-emotively.”

Also on the plenary panel was firearm advocate Chuck Aposhian from the Utah Shooting Sports Council, who thanked suicide prevention advocates for their work and urged continued bipartanship: “Because guns play such a large role in suicide, let us help you.”

He also candidly detailed the philosophy behind means safety: “Hey, I’m going to babysit your guns for a week. Your sleeping pills, too. It’s hard to change your mind at 1,000 feet per second.”

Cathy Barber of Harvard’s Means Matter program began the panel with a blast from the past: “Twenty to thirty years ago, no one knew the phrase ‘friends don’t let friends drive drunk. They know that phrase now.”

Thirty-four states are working on firearms safety through a lens of suicide prevention – in addition to a national collaboration between the AFSP and National Shooting Sports Foundation. Ralph Demicco and Elaine Frank expressed amazement at the level of nationwide engagement.

Over 20 individuals at the AAS conference gathered for dinner one evening, in which Demicco and Frank, who were termed the “fairy godfather and godmother of the movement,” were toasted all around.

The bicentennial conference, which welcomed around 1,400 attendees last week in Phoenix, AZ, featured a keynote, “Honoring the Past and Innovating the Future,” with president-elect David Covington in an Ebola virus protection Hazmat suit that alluded to public perception of suicide.

For more details about the conference, check out #aas17 or http://www.suicidology.org/.