KUSA - For every one gun-related homicide in Colorado there are nearly four gun-related suicides, according to data obtained by I-News Network and analyzed by 9Wants to Know.
I-News analyzed gun deaths in Colorado from 2000-2011, the years between the Columbine school shooting and the Aurora Theater shootings. The organization reviewed the information in a story called Colorado's Deadliest Neighborhood.
But I-News, a non-profit investigative journalism organization, also documented another interesting trend. Seventy six percent of all gun deaths in Colorado between 2000 and 2011 were suicides. That's why mental health experts say if we focus on lowering the number of gun deaths, we also should focus on suicide prevention.
Laurie Freeman, who lives in Arapahoe County, knows first-hand the impact of gun-related suicide.
She found her son Chris dead in her home in April 2010 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The 19-year-old was struggling with the transition from high school to college.
"I found him first," Freeman remembered. She was grieving but she was really concerned for her husband, Tim.
"My husband could not deal with the loss of his son," Freeman said.
Tim Freeman died by suicide seven months after his son. Freeman says both shot themselves with antique guns they had been collecting together as a hobby.
"This is really not a political issue, it's a human issue we need to bring forth," said Barb Becker from the Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network.
She advises families to learn the signs to look for in a family member who might be suicidal. Only then can you protect the people you love.
"Take the gun away from someone who is feeling suicidal. It buys some time." Becker said. "It gives them that window of opportunity to get through that crisis."
Mental health providers call this "means restriction." This means removing everything from the suicidal person's home that could be a means to kill himself or herself. This would include finding another safe place to temporarily store guns. It also could include removing prescription drugs that could be used to overdose.
"It's not about removing firearms from people's lives," said Jarrod Hindman from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Office of Suicide Prevention. "It's about knowledge of when someone is in danger to themselves, in making sure they don't have access during their crisis."
Laurie Freeman has turned grief over her husband's and son's deaths into a mission for her life. She now educates others about risk factors and warning signs through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
"If I can prevent anyone else from having to go through what I went through, it's all worth it," Freeman said.
If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK.
Learn about risk factors and warning signs of suicide from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.