Mental Health And Sportsmen Communities Work Together To Prevent Suicide


Nationally, almost fifty percent of all suicides involve firearms.

“People use many different methods to attempt to kill themselves,” said Amy McCracken, Deputy Commissioner of the Ulster county Department of Mental Health. “But due to the lethality of guns, the capacity to get medical attention really quickly, people die much more quickly when they use a gun versus other means.”

In partnerships across the country, mental health professionals like McCracken and gun enthusiasts are trying to do something about suicide. One such partnership is in Ulster County, New York, in the Hudson Valley. McCracken and Joe Liuni of the Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of Ulster County talked to Crystal Sarakas about their collaboration.

Interview Highlights:

On going to a gun show:

Amy McCracken: So we go to a gun show, and here we are, a suicide prevention table amongst individuals selling many different types of guns, many of which I’ve never seen before. And we encourage people to come to the table. We raffle off a gun lock box while we’re sitting there. We always have free gun locks.

And we begin to engage folks at these shows, at these events, in the discussion of gun safety towards our efforts of suicide prevention. And we found, in doing so, that many people who own guns have the experience of having lost a loved one to suicide.

On how to tell if a gun buyer might be a suicide risk:

Joe Liuni: Somebody comes in, has no gun experience at all, and all the sudden wants to purchase a gun. What are you going to use the gun for? Well, if it’s not for sports shooting, target shooting or whatever, you can usually feel them out. You can usually  identify somebody that doesn’t have any gun experience at all….And that’s what we’re learning.

The last person that wants to see somebody use a firearm to hurt themselves is a gun owner.

On getting suicide prevention information into big box stores that sell guns:

JL: It’s tough because you’re dealing with a corporate office from a different state. And a lot of times they might feel funny about displaying suicide prevention material. But on a local level, it’s not a problem.

Crystal Sarakas: If you could send a message to those corporate office people, what would it be?

AM: It’s to everybody’s benefit to have an understanding of the importance of firearm safety and suicide prevention.

JL: And with the National Shooting Sports Foundation now being involved in it, [with] the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, these are national organizations. This’ll get to the corporate world. This’ll get to the stores.

Find more information about Ulster County’s suicide prevetion efforts here. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.