Guest Opinion: Montana Needs New Legal Tool to Reduce Suicide Risk

By Geller, Lisa | The Billings Gazette (Billings, MT), November 18, 2018 | Go to article overview

Guest Opinion: Montana Needs New Legal Tool to Reduce Suicide Risk


Geller, Lisa, The Billings Gazette (Billings, MT)


LISA GELLER

Guns killed 194 Montanans in 2016. Montana has the seventh highest firearm death rate in the country and the highest suicide rate. Nearly 270 Montanans died by suicide in 2016, and over 63 percent of these suicides were firearm suicides. A startling 88 percent of all firearm deaths in Montana are firearm suicides.

Montana’s suicide rate is nearly twice the national average. Suicide is costly, both financially and in terms of years of potential life lost. In 2010, each suicide in Montana cost the state an average of $1.1 million in work loss and medical costs. Tragically, the youth suicide rate (ages 11-17) in Montana is nearly 2.5 times the national rate.

Many factors contribute to gun violence, including intimate partner violence, substance and alcohol use disorder, access to firearms, and suicidality. Firearm homicides, suicides and unintentional injury consistently rank in the leading causes of death in Montana.

These statistics clearly highlight the suicide problem in Montana and the role firearms play. Because access to firearms elevates the risk of suicide, there is agreement among many health care providers and gun violence prevention experts that removing firearms from individuals in crisis can prevent suicide. Indeed, the presence of a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide fivefold. Given the lethality of firearms, there is often no second chance for someone attempting suicide with this lethal means.

The Montana Legislature should introduce, pass, and implement an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), given Montana's high suicide rate and high firearm mortality rate. An ERPO, also called an extreme risk law, allows family members, friends and law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who are exhibiting signs of dangerousness— either towards themselves or others. …

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Guest Opinion: Montana Needs New Legal Tool to Reduce Suicide Risk
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