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Home » How To Talk About Guns And Suicide: Emmy Betz at TEDxMileHigh (Transcript)

How To Talk About Guns And Suicide: Emmy Betz at TEDxMileHigh (Transcript)


For the last ten years, I’ve worked as a doctor in an emergency department. And people often ask me, “What’s the most unbelievable thing you’ve ever seen?” We do see some very weird things, but my job is not nearly as dramatic as it might seem on TV, and those strange cases are actually pretty rare.

What has been surprising to me, though, is that every single time I work in the emergency department, I talk with people struggling with depression, and with thoughts of killing themselves. And it really feels like to me we don’t talk about suicide enough, probably because of the stigma that’s still attached to mental health issues.

So, I started doing research and public health advocacy related to suicide prevention, and that has led me here today. It has also led to some very odd dinner table conversations with my family, and I still have to remind myself that suicide prevention is not a typical topic of conversation at cocktail parties. But I actually think maybe it should be, because I think we’ve got to start talking about this.

And so, today I’m really hoping to give you all some ideas about how you can help save lives, because we have a lot of work to do. Suicide now causes twice as many deaths every year as car crashes do. And suicide death rates appear to be going up at the same time that death rates from car crashes are going down. In Colorado, a healthy and happy state, we actually have one of the highest suicide rates in the country. Now, we don’t hesitate to tell our kids to never drink and drive, or to ask a car dealer about safety features.

Yet, we might hesitate to ask a troubled friend if he’s had thoughts of suicide. But the research tells us that asking that question will not cause suicide. When I talk with patients who are suicidal, I tell them that I’m there to listen, and to help, and that I’m really glad they came into my emergency department, but I also ask them a question, an important question, that I think we all need to be asking anyone at risk of suicide: “Do you have access to a gun?” And to explain to you why I think we need to be asking this, I’d like to share with you a few facts about suicide.

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