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Suicide is the leading cause of gun-related deaths across the country in recent years.
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In 2013, firearms contributed to 72 percent of statewide suicides in Mississippi. Dr. Michael Anestis, a Psychology professor at The University of Southern Mississippi, says a suicidal urge can emerge when one feels like a liability or feels disconnected from others.

"Suicide is poorly understood. This isn't some cowardly, easy escape people take. This is a difficult thing that people think about for a long time," says Anestis.

From 2007 to 2013 in Mississippi, more than 90 percent of suicides were committed by firearms.  Anestis says, when you decrease access to a highly lethal means, the rate goes down. He says his efforts are not to change the law, but to educate.

"I think our best bet is to find common ground. Reach out to gun owners and talk about this is what suicide risks look like. These are methods to increase your safety," Anestis says. 

Anestis says reaching out to vulnerable individuals can also help. Brenda Patterson, Executive Director of CONTACT the Crisis Line in Jackson, says untreated depression fuels suicidal thoughts. She says genuine concern and interaction can yield a decrease in the self-inflicted death epidemic.

"Ask them very openly, 'Are you thinking about killing yourself?', and many times, they're going to be very relieved that someone is acknowledging and wanting them to talk about what has brought them to that point," Patterson says.

Both Patterson and Anestis say communication is a driving force for prevention. Anestis says education on firearm safety and mental health could result in a lower outcome of suicides all- together.