Firearm Suicide Prevention & Lethal Means Safety
Keep It Secure
Are you a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one?
Lethal Means Safety & Suicide Prevention
Lethal means are objects that may be used by individuals experiencing a suicidal crisis. They include things like guns, medications, alcohol, opioids, other substances, ropes, cords, or sharp objects. If a Veteran is in crisis or is having suicidal thoughts, these items can become deadly if easily accessible.
Increasing the time and distance between a person in suicidal crisis and their access to lethal means can reduce suicide risk and save lives. The VA Keep It Secure program promotes awareness about the simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.
Learn more about the warning signs of suicide, including those that require immediate action.
Secure Firearm Storage
Crisis can happen unexpectedly to anyone. Research shows that many individuals who have experienced a suicidal crisis indicated that it lasted only a matter of minutes. Contrary to popular belief, if a person experiencing a suicidal crisis can’t access the method they planned to use, they generally do not seek out other lethal means to attempt suicide.
Though it may seem like a small barrier, securing your guns with a simple lock puts space between the thought and the trigger. Watch the videos to learn more.
Tips for Secure Storage
Suicidal crises can be brief, so securely storing your guns can be an effective barrier between the suicidal impulse and action. Making sure your guns are unloaded, locked, and secured when not in use can help prevent gun injuries. Ammunition should also be stored in a different location.
There are several effective ways to securely store your guns:
- Cable Lock: This simple device is widely available and can be an effective barrier. You can request a gun lock from the suicide prevention coordinator (SPC) at your local VA medical facility. Find a facility using the VA Resource Locator.
- Lockbox or Gun Safe: This method can be used to conceal or protect guns as well. Make sure to lock the case with an external device for added security.
- Electronic Lockbox or Biometric Safe: Only the person with the code, fingerprint, or other biometric identifier can access the contents. Some are designed for quick access to stored guns if needed but can still serve as a barrier during a moment a crisis.
Learn more about firearm safety, how to obtain a free gun lock and more from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Safe Medication Storage
For many Veterans and their families, taking medication is necessary and part of leading a healthy life. But like guns, medications should be securely stored when not in use.
Tips for preventing intentional or unintentional overdose:
- Keep medications secured and out of a child’s sight and reach.
- Have a family member or friend help manage your medication dosages.
- Portion pills out for the week, then lock the rest away.
- Secure any sedatives, stimulants, or opioid medications in a locked location.
- Proactively ask your doctor or pharmacist to limit the number of refills or quantity of medication or request a blister pack.
- Dispose of any medication past its expiration date, unused within the last 12 months, or no longer needed.
Visit the VA Center for Medication Safety for more information or ask your doctor or pharmacist about options for safely storing or disposing of medications. Medication lockboxes are available at any pharmacy. To learn more about how you can reduce the risk of a life-threatening opioid overdose, visit the Opioid Overdose Education & Naloxone Distribution site.
Support for Veterans and Families
VA is here to support you if you or a loved one are experiencing a suicidal crisis, have attempted suicide, or are coping with a suicide loss. Resources are available on the Suicide Prevention Coping & Support page to help you navigate your personal situation
Visit the following links for more information and resources.
Videos: Pivot Point
Veterans Crisis Line
Contact a Suicide Prevention Coordinator: Find Your Local VA
National Shooting Sports Foundation: Firearm Safety Information
VA Center for Medication Safety
Opioid Overdose Education & Naloxone Distribution
Factsheet: Safe Home Environment (PDF)
Factsheet: Staying Safe on Prescription Opioids (PDF)
Video: Firearm Safety
Reducing Firearm & Other Household Safety Risks (PDF)
Start the Conversation: Talking to a Veteran When You Are Concerned (PDF)
Coping & Support for Suicide Loss and Attempted Suicide