New study finds 72% of WI gun deaths are suicides - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

New study finds 72% of WI gun deaths are suicides

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Eau Claire County (WQOW) -- Suicide is a public health issue that impacts people at all walks of life. A new study shows that nearly three out of four gun deaths in Wisconsin are suicides, many among older, rural white men. 

According to research from 2000 until 2014, 72% of firearm deaths in the state are suicides. That's about 12% higher than the national average. 

That rate was highest among white men, ages 45 and older, who live in rural parts of Wisconsin. In Eau Claire County, 45% of gun-death suicides fit that criteria. 

Mental health experts told News 18 the date isn't surprising, considering the access people have to guns here. 

"How can we slow down that impulsive behavior?" asked Chelsie Smith, a public health nurse at the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.

"Are we comfortable saying, to a loved one who may be at risk, 'Let me hang on to your firearms for you because I'm worried about you?' And the same thing, 'I'm worried about myself. So you can you hold onto my firearms for me, until I get through this rough patch?'," Smith pondered. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, health experts say it's vital to intervene and get help. They say some warning signs may be: 

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

Experts say the more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Though warning signs are associated with suicide, they may not be what causes a suicide. They say if you notice these behaviors in someone you love:

  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

If there is an immediate threat of harm, they say to call 911. Otherwise, below is a list of resources in our area that can provide help:

  • Northwest Connections Crisis Line: 1-888-552-6642
  • HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital Outpatient: 715-717-5899
  • HSHS Sacred Heart - The Healing Place: 715-717-6028
  • L.E. Phillips - Libertas Treatment Center: 1-800-680-4578 or 715-723-5585
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Marshfield Behavioral Health: 715-858-4850
  • Mayo Health System Outpatient: 715-838-5369
  • Chippewa Cty Mental Health & Recovery Services: 715-726-7788
  • Chippewa Valley Free Clinic: 715-839-8477
  • Open Door Clinic: 715-720-1443
  • Wellness Shack: 715-855-7705

Even if you don't like talking on the phone, help is still on the way. People can text 'HOPELINE' to 741741 or visit the Center for Suicide Awareness online. 

There are also resources available to people who have lost someone to suicide. The 'Handbook for Suicide Survivors' can be found HERE. The Eau Claire City-County Health Department also offers QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) training for free. More information can be found HERE.

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