Firearm suicide prevention in the U.S. Military: Recommendations from a national summit
Betz, M.E., Stanley, I.H., Anestis, M.D., Bryan, C.J., Buck-Atkinson, J., Carey, N., ... & Wright-Kelly, E.
The U.S. DoD has identified firearm suicide prevention as a key operational priority. One vital approach to addressing firearm suicides is through promoting lethal means safety, which involves the voluntary use of secure storage for personally owned firearms and/or temporarily moving firearms out of the home during risk periods. Despite promising approaches to lethal means safety, critical gaps remain in research, programming, and communication among and across scientists, DoD programmatic leaders, front-line commanders, and service members. To address these gaps, the first-ever national “Firearm Suicide Prevention in the Military: Messaging and Interventions Summit” was convened in June 2022, bringing together DoD personnel and researchers with expertise in firearm suicide prevention and lethal means safety. The Summit identified 10 recommendations to enhance firearm suicide prevention messaging and interventions in the U.S. military, including (1) repeal or amend prohibitions on questioning service members about personal firearms; (2) develop, examine, and use common language for firearm injury prevention; (3) implement a universal approach to training on comprehensive firearm injury prevention; (4) encourage leadership across disciplines and levels; (5) aim for broad culture change; (6) support innovative research; (7) consider various outcome measures; (8) promote “cultural competence” for better communication; (9) reduce territorialism; and (10) develop creative partnerships. Ultimately, these recommendations can facilitate productive partnerships with a shared goal: to develop, test, and implement strategies that standardize lethal means safety and reduce firearm suicides and other firearm injuries or harm among service members.