Hardly a day goes by where we don’t hear about another tragedy in the news involving the death of someone gone too soon. Whether it be from suicide, accidental or intentional gun deaths, or drug overdoses, these losses are all tragic. They can feel unexpected and out of the blue. For those left behind after a loved one dies in this manner, feelings of helplessness, shock, and self-doubt about what they could have done to prevent this can surface quickly. It is so easy to feel like there is nothing we can do to prevent these types of tragedies.
Though ultimately, we can never ensure we will 100% be able to prevent someone from taking their own life or another person’s life, there are some reasonable steps we can take to greatly reduce this risk. By implementing these safety precautions proactively, we can significantly reduce the potential risk of death with our loved ones. Not only that, but with these concrete, actionable steps, you can feel empowered and confident that you are doing all that you can to keep your loved ones safe. If you know, or suspect, that a loved one is struggling with mental health concerns, follow these straightforward steps to increase their safety.
1) Lock up all firearms and store ammunition separately.
Research shows that in the majority of suicides by gunshot, the person obtained the gun from their own home or that of a loved one. If you own any guns, the best way to prevent an accidental or impulsive act of harm with your guns, is to keep them securely locked in a gun safe. Alternatively, at minimum, secure them with a cable gun lock (which can cost as low as $5-$10!). Additionally, it is also important to store ammunition separate from the gun.
If you are a parent, proactively asking the parents of your children’s friends when they visit their home whether they own guns and whether they are locked is a quick way to have peace of mind when they are out of your home.
2) Throw away narcotics and other prescription pain meds when you are finished using them.
It’s not all that uncommon to open your medicine cabinet to find old, outdated prescription pain management prescriptions from past dental work, injuries, or surgeries that you just haven’t gotten around to throwing out. If ever you have a loved one who is experiencing a mental health crisis where they are contemplating suicide, reducing their access to potentially lethal medications can go a long way in reducing their risk of drug overdose. Many police departments, fire stations, and pharmacies accept leftover medications no questions asked.
3) Lock all other potentially lethal medications up in a lockbox.