HELENA – Montana pediatricians are hoping to help address suicide in the state by providing locks for firearms.
The Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics will provide gun locks and suicide prevention information for all the physicians who attend its annual pediatric conference this weekend at Chico Hot Springs. Doctors can then distribute them to the families they work with.
The group received an anonymous donation of about 1,400 cable locks. They also have 50 trigger locks, provided by the Missoula City-County Health Department.
AAP leaders say they hope the program will raise awareness of the importance of storing firearms safely. They recommend using locks on guns and storing ammunition separately.
Leaders cited research that shows storing firearms as recommend can reduce the risk of death or injury to children by up to 85 percent.
Dr. Lauren Wilson is a pediatrician from Missoula and a member of the Montana Chapter’s executive committee. She said even a small step like using a gun lock can make a big difference when someone – especially a teenager – is considering suicide.
“If you have something that’s secured, it really takes away the impulse that people feel sometimes when they’re depressed or having trouble in their life to commit suicide, and they’re able to get to a point where they can recover,” said Wilson.
Statistics show Montana has had one of the highest suicide rates in the U.S. in recent years. Montana’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found almost 10 percent of high school students in the state had attempted suicide at least once over the previous year.
People struggling with suicidal thoughts can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255, or 1 (800) 273-TALK. They can also get help via text message, by texting “mt” to 741-741.