Veteran outreach program works to prevent suicides in Wisconsin communities with firearm safety initiative
The Captain John D. Mason Veteran Peer Outreach Program, in collaboration with the Southeastern Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Taskforce and BeThereWis.com, is bringing the Gun Shop Project and Safe Storage Program to local communities across Wisconsin.
The program, developed by Safe Communities of Madison-Dane County, works with Wisconsin gun shops and ranges to provide two levels of support to the gun-owner community that address firearm suicides.
Firearm safety: Gun shops will provide materials to customers and staff about suicide prevention and responsible firearm ownership developed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), American Foundation on Suicide Prevention, and the VA.
Firearm storage outside of the home: The gun shops will provide temporary safe storage of a firearm for a low fee. This service will assist individuals that are in a crisis to voluntarily store their firearm outside of the home.
“Many people that die by suicide might be going through a divorce, job loss or missed promotion, or simply feeling hopeless in a dire moment,” said Chris Swift, Veteran Peer Specialist with the Captain John D. Mason Veteran Peer Outreach Program. Swift is also a veteran.
These types of programs have been successful in New Hampshire, Colorado, Washington, and parts of Wisconsin. Research shows that 70 percent of veteran suicides are by use of a firearm, and more than half of suicides are not due to mental illness.
The Captain John D. Mason Veteran Peer Outreach Program located at VeteranPeerOutreach.org was created in 2018 and named after a Vietnam veteran who lost his own battle with depression and PTSD. The program, in the Medical College of Wisconsin Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine in collaboration with the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, strives to save lives by locating veterans in need and engaging them in VA health services.
“It can be within minutes that a person takes their life. Suicidal feelings can be temporary and the ability to offer time and distance between a person and lethal means can save a life,” added Swift, who is also a veteran.