As part of the U.S. military’s ongoing efforts to stem suicide in the ranks, the Navy and Marine Corps are partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs to distribute 200,000 gun locks to installations nationwide.
The gun locks can be picked up at VA facilities across the country, as well as at local Fleet and Family Support Centers and Marine Corps Community Services locations.
Contact information for the Military/Veterans Crisis Line are also printed on the gun locks.
The thought behind the program is to put up a barrier between a person’s suicidal impulse and taking action on that impulse, according to a Navy release
In some cases, it can take less than 10 minutes for someone to think about suicide and then act upon it, according to the Navy.
“Research tells us that putting time and distance between an at-risk individual and a means of suicide is an effective way to prevent suicide,” Andrea Goldstein, the acting director of the Department of the Navy’s Office of Force Resiliency, said in the release. “We are grateful to the VA for their partnership and providing this tool for our Sailors and Marines.”
Owning a gun doesn’t cause someone to be suicidal, but research has shown that storing a loaded firearm at home may increase the risk of death by suicide, according to the release.
“Firearms are one of the most lethal and common method for suicide among service members and their families,” Dr. Matthew Miller, the VA’s director of suicide prevention, said in the release. “The VA is poised to continue partnerships with the Services to keep service members, veterans and their families safe. Together, our Departments are encouraging safer storage practices, safety planning, and time and space measures for crisis response.”
Last year, 59 active-duty sailors died by suicide, down from 67 in 2020, according to Defense Department data.
Forty-two Marines took their lives in 2021, also a decrease from 2020, when 63 died by suicide.
Troops, veterans and family members facing a mental health crisis can call 988 or 1-800-273-8255 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line for around-the-clock emergency help (press 1 after connecting for faster access). Individuals can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for alternate ways to reach counselors.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.