San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott said stress from the COVID pandemic is the likely cause of a marked increase in the number of gun violence restraining orders involving threats of suicide.
The nearly three-fold increase coincides with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic and widespread stay-at-home orders.
In recognition of National Suicide Prevention Month, the City Attorney reminded the public that help is available for anyone feeling stressed or suicidal, or who knows someone who may be thinking of harming themselves. Her office released a list of resources to the media and published it on the City Attorney’s website.
Access to firearms is a significant factor in suicide rates. Guns are used in more than half of suicides in the United States, and the vast majority of suicide attempts that involve guns result in death.
Since March, there has been a sharp increase in the number of GVROs, involving potentially suicidal individuals. From March 1 to Aug. 31, the city attorney’s office filed 43 GVROs to remove firearms from individuals who threatened to harm themselves and in some cases harm others as well. During that same period the previous year, 16 GVROs were obtained involving threats of suicide.
San Diego’s GVRO program allows law enforcement to obtain a court order to remove firearms and ammunition from a person who poses a danger to themselves or others. Often, a loved one or the individual in crisis contacts law enforcement for help.
“Our GVRO trends illustrate the impact COVID is having on the mental health of San Diegans,” said Elliott. “We urge residents to seek help if they are in crisis and to monitor the welfare of their family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. To those grappling with their emotional well-being during this trying time: there is no shame in asking for help.”
Recent GVROs have included individuals who feared losing their jobs and homes due to the pandemic’s economic disruption and threatened suicide, including one man who gave a suicide note to his property owner saying he could not pay rent and things would end with him in a pool of his blood. Another man who told authorities he suffered from PTSD and other mental health conditions became depressed after losing his job and risked losing his home during the lockdown phase of the pandemic, and told police he had “just enough money to buy a gun.”
Elliott urged anyone feeling stressed or suicidal, or who knows someone who is thinking of harming themselves, to contact one of these resources:
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline is a 24-hour service with counselors available who speak English and Spanish: (800) 273-8255.
- San Diego Access and Crisis Line provides round-the-clock counseling for suicide prevention, crisis intervention, community resources, mental health referrals, and alcohol and drug support services: (888) 724-7240.
- San Diego Veterans Administration Health System has a 24-hour Veterans Crisis Line to connect callers to caring, qualified responders with VA Assistance: (800) 273-8255.