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KELLY BREVIG COLUMN: Together we can face any crisis

Kelly Brevig

I didn’t grow up in a home of hunters, but we did own guns. By the time I came around, my dad’s hunting days were long gone but I still understood the respect he had for a loaded weapon. I knew where my dad’s guns were kept and I knew they were not for playing with. I had no idea where the ammunition was (nor did I care) and I knew that they were meant to be used only when taught how and with the utmost respect. I also knew that if I ever wanted to learn how to shoot, I would have the opportunity. I did eventually shoot his .22 rifle, but there were so many steps we had to take to ensure safety, I didn’t think I’d ever get to pull the trigger. It turns out I was a pretty good shot, but that is a whole other story.

The point is my dad mentored a healthy respect for guns that I have seen duplicated in my husband’s hunting practices. They were both taught to watch the muzzle, treat every gun like it’s loaded, double check the target before pulling the trigger and to always know where that trigger finger is. There was one more lesson that I learned that wasn’t really talked about much but followed just the same: When someone we cared about was experiencing a really hard time, the guns were made inaccessible.

There were no conversations about gun control or freedoms and rights. In fact, there were few conversations to be had during a crisis at all. Instead, when someone was depressed and experiencing an emotional crisis, those guns found a new temporary home. If there was a lot of drinking added to the equation, this intensified the need to act immediately and often silently until the crisis passed.

In the world of suicide education we call this “means restriction.” Abraham Lincoln’s friend, Joshua Speed, provided the same type of care by removing all razors, knives and sharp objects from Lincoln when he was experiencing an extreme bout with depression and suicidal thoughts. Yup, no one is immune to depression, even one of our most beloved presidents had to walk this road. Even then, we practiced removing harmful objects as a way to help preserve life and make it more difficult for a suicidal person to find the means to end their life.

I believe the same practices are happening today, and that hunters (at least all the ones I know) practice hunter’s safety, have a healthy appreciation for life and don’t underestimate the power of a loaded gun. I believe they would and do intervene in a deadly situation to keep their loved ones safe. I also believe that although we have come a long way, it is still hard for people to talk about depression and mental illness. It is still hard to ask the question, “Are you feeling suicidal?”

Imagine where we would be as a country if Abraham Lincoln’s friend didn’t intervene to try to keep him safe. I have a strong hunch it all began with a simple question: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” Thankfully instead of shame, embarrassment and condemnation, Lincoln was met with compassion and hope. I think we can all do the same.

This year as all those wonderful hunters are out there thinning the herd, let’s make it safe for them to stand up for each other. They have so much to think about when preparing for a safe season. Many already notice, ask and act when they suspect their friend is not OK. We can make it even easier for them by having real conversations about depression, mental illness and thoughts of suicide. Let’s keep talking. Together we can face any crisis.

Kelly Brevig is Suicide Educational Services Coordinator for Evergreen Youth & Family Services, Inc.