Reduce Access Reduce Suicides

Research shows it takes just 5–10 minutes from contemplating suicide to attempting it.

Safely storing medications and firearms can be lifesaving measures. Taking these precautions can make it more difficult to act on sudden suicidal ideations. For example, in 2020, firearms were used in 64.3 percent of active-duty suicides, 75 percent of reservist suicides and 79.8 percent of guard member suicides according to the Department of Defense Annual Suicide Report. According to the American Public Health Association, storing firearms and ammunition safely reduces the risk of suicide from 73 percent to 55 percent1.

Safely storing firearms and removing substances that heighten impulsiveness, such as alcohol, can drastically change a suicide outcome. Drug/alcohol overdose was the most common method of attempted suicide on DOD Suicide Event Report (DODSER) forms, accounting for 53 percent of reported CY19 suicide attempts (DODSER 2020). Policies such as packaging pills have reduced the risk of medication overdose.

How can you ensure medication and firearms are stored safely?

Here are things everyone can do:

  • Use gun locks. 
  • Store firearms unloaded in a safe.
  • Store ammunition in a separate locked container.
  • Never keep lethal doses of medication on hand. Talk to a doctor and pharmacist to make sure only safe dosages are in the home.
  • Consider keeping medications locked in a safe place.
  • Dispose of medications properly when no longer needed.
  • Research ways to safely store medication and firearms by contacting a pharmacist, the Military and Family Life Counseling or suicide prevention personnel, or ask a friend to search online for information about safely storing medications and firearms.

Here are things leaders can do:

  • Provide training on how to reduce access to lethal means, such as safely storing medication and firearms, and share best practices and examples for how to reduce access to lethal means.
  • Review/implement new Army Suicide Prevention policies in accordance with the vice chief of staff.  
  • Coordinate with behavioral health personnel and the Army Substance Abuse Program.
  • Consult with behavioral health personnel and understand behavioral health policy AR 600-63 Army Health Promotion to help identify/reduce risks and coordinate care requirements.

Additional Resources: