April 10, 2010 - 2 Responses
Case number: 10-28317
Type: Death Investigation
Text: On 4/6/10 at 2243 hours, AST received a 911 report that David
Brian Reynolds, 57 YOA of Fairbanks, had sustained an apparent
self-inflicted gunshot wound. AST and UAF Fire and Ambulance responded
to the scene. Reynolds was found deceased in his residence upon
arrival. Reynolds' next of kin was on scene and has been notified. The
State Medical Examiner's Office was notified and has ordered an autopsy.
No foul play is suspected. The investigation is continuing pending the
Received Wednesday, April 07, 2010 6:07 AM and posted Wednesday, April 07, 2010 6:57 AM
I'm not sure where the fluffy bunny thing comes from; I didn't realize that fluffy bunnies were an anti-depressant. I won't address the nonsensical tags. I wish that Gwen's tags made sense so that you could actually use them to search her posts. I've addressed suicide and firearms before but I want to talk more specifically about the issue as relates to Alaska.
Suicide in Alaska is a pretty big problem. UAA figures show that 72% of violent deaths are suicides. We have one of the highest suicide rates in the nation and the world; we're almost double the rate in the lower 48. The suicide rate is even higher among the native population. Around 60% of the suicides involve firearms. Suicide rates are trending up, too.
Over 60% of Alaska households report owning firearms (as compared to 30-40% of American households). The figure is higher in the bush, and there is a good chance firearm ownership is underreported. One might say, "Ah-hah, double the firearms ownership rate, double the suicide rate, case closed." However, to say that "guns cause suicide in Alaska" oversimplifies the issue. As we'll see, in Alaska, 60% of suicides occur with firearms; in the US as a whole, it is 54%. Double the firearms ownership rate, but only a 10% increase in the percentage of suicides that occur with a firearm. A New York Times article (remember, the NYT is rabidly anti gun) even admits this complexity:
Alcohol or drugs were a factor in nearly three-fourths of the suicides among natives, the same as for nonnatives. And while about two-thirds of all suicides were from gunshot wounds, natives were twice as likely to hang themselves as were nonnatives, even though gun ownership is high among natives.Here are some interesting facts I found in the 2007 Alaska Suicide Follow-back report:
- Alcohol use is a big problem. 33% of all suicides had a positive tox screen. Alcoholism rates are high and correlated with suicide. Only one state has a lower substance abuse-related suicide problem than Alaska.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder is probably not a major factor. Suicides occur year round and do not seem to vary by month. In fact, they are lowest in December.
- In Alaska, disproportionate numbers of young people (age 20-29) are killing themselves compared to the US as a whole.
- Although Alaska Natives comprise 16% of the population, they accounted for 39% of the suicides.
- A disproportionate number of suicides occur in rural areas.
- Firearms were used in 63% of suicides in Alaska (compared to 54% of the rest of the US). Natives are much more likely to use a longgun (7/10), and non-natives to use a handgun (7/10).
There are some articles in the Rural Alaska Blog from the ADN, too, and a regular ADN article.
Suicide among natives is commonly linked with depression and mental illness, which often goes untreated in rural areas, as well as with alcoholism and cultural and economic stress. Many native families are reluctant to discuss suicide, adding to the challenge, Mr. Perkins said... Natives are increasingly moving to urban areas from rural villages and native families are increasingly led by a single parent. Women are more likely than men to move to cities to find work.
“They’ve lost their culture, they don’t have a way to support their family, and then what we see is a lot of alcohol and drug use, particularly alcohol,” said Diane Casto, the section manager for prevention and early intervention for the state’s division of behavioral health. “There’s such a feeling of hopelessness, particularly for young men.”
Experts say young people often have frayed connections to the old ways but poor preparation for living in a modern world.
“How do you move out, how do you move on?” said Yvonne Kinegak, an intake supervisor for the Bethel branch of the state’s Office of Children’s Services. “We see healthier people when they’re more connected to their culture.”
Screaming that "GUNS MAKE YOU COMMIT SUICIDE!" is too simple. If people can't access firearms, then as I've discussed before they find alternative methods (1, 2, 3). The real solutions are much harder and complex. How do you tackle the disintegration of traditional native culture? Epidemic levels of substance abuse? How do you change a culture of silence that doesn't address these issues head on? That's a lot harder that a knee-jerk reaction. None of the mental health professionals are talking about removing guns from the equation, and I think that speaks volumes about the need to differentiate methods from root causes.