Peer support and reducing use of guns in suicide

Kaiser Health News reports on Veteran peer's important roles in preventing suicide.  Jay Zimmerman, former Army medic and now VA peer counselor works with other Vets.  His upbringing and experience in Appalachia with guns and suicide make him a great contact to punch through stigma and able to talk to Vets about a sensitive subject - guns.

The use of firearms is part of what makes suicide attempts so effective for Vets.  But discussing that subject can be problematic to a population that is fiercely attached to their firearm.  In Appalachia, using a gun may even be necessary to put food on the table.  But Zimmerman has been there:  

“I call them and say, ‘Look, I’m feeling like it’s not safe for me to have firearms in my home. Can you store them for me for a couple days till I feel like I’m OK to have them back?’ ”

Suicide is often an impulsive act. Nearly half the people who survive an attempt say the time between their first thought of suicide and the attempt itself was less than 10 minutes. But the method can mean the difference between life and death: People who take pills have time to change their minds, or may still be alive when discovered. That’s not the case with guns.

Peers are important sources of help for many reasons.  Being able to talk openly and honestly about tough subjects is one of them. 

A lot of veterans would sometimes rather confide in a fellow vet than someone in a white coat, Zimmerman said. And that was an unusual takeaway for the professional counselors: Sometimes their role is not to intervene at all, but to be a facilitator. To make sure vets have someone to talk to outside the therapy office.

Jay Zimmerman really gets after it.  Read the whole story here:

March 8, 2017 - 4:17pm