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Wyoming Working To Address High Gun Suicide Rates

In conservative Wyoming, it was long seen as taboo to draw a link between guns and suicide, despite the fact that it has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the United States, and also has one of the highest gun suicide rates. Firearms are used in roughly 75% of suicides in the Cowboy State, compared with just over 50% nationally, NPR reports. But survivors and those who work in prevention say there are signs that this is finally changing, with gun shops increasingly talking about safe storage of firearms, and mental health professionals talking more with patients about the risks of easy access to guns during a mental health crisis.

"One of the challenging aspects of working in the Rocky Mountain region is just the availability and accessibility of firearms," says Brittany Wardle, a prevention officer at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. "Some days it feels very overwhelming because you think, 'If we didn't have firearms to worry about, what would suicide look like here?'" While gun control measures are mostly off the table due to the political reality in the state, those who work in suicide prevention see some incremental signs of progress. Wyoming now has a locally staffed 988 suicide hotline. Gov. Mark Gordon has been holding high-profile suicide prevention forums in communities, garnering press attention. And efforts to expand mental health care to underserved places — such as the new urgent care clinic in Cheyenne — could serve as a model for other communities.


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