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Many Western States Seek Ways to Lower High Suicide Rates

Suicide
Photo courtesy of Jon King

Western states in a belt from Montana to New Mexico are looking for ways to lower their highest-in-the-nation suicide rates, although gun-specific initiatives are a touchy topic.

In Montana, with the highest rate, suicide prevention coordinator Karl Rosston acknowledges some frustration as the toll rises, including the recent deaths of several teenagers who used guns from their own homes.

Rosston said “People are afraid we’re trying to take away guns, which is not the case.”

One of Montana’s hardest-hit areas is the city of Butte and surrounding Silver Bow County, where, according to local health director Karen Sullivan, the rate of gun ownership is far above the national average. Jolted by the recent firearm suicides of six young people, including a good friend of her daughter, Sullivan and others formed a suicide prevention committee and began distributing gun locks.

Sullivan said “All six had ready access to a firearm, and we’re not OK with that.”

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