By Rev. Dr. Clay Stauffer and Rabbi Shana Mackler | December 19, 2023
Those of us who are involved in the leadership of faith communities understand all too well how tender this time of year will be for our friends and neighbors.
For most of us, December is a flurry of preparations for a gathering of loved ones during the Christmas and Chanukah seasons as we surround tables to celebrate our faith and the connections with our family.
But for many, those moments will be bittersweet as we remember those close to us who are no longer present to celebrate. The memories are especially painful when those loved ones have been lost because of a preventable firearm tragedy.
We both share the heartbreaking experience of losing our mothers, each of whom ended her life with a firearm. Our recollections of mom in holidays past are filled with both joy and pain, but our grief is something too many families across Tennessee and our nation share.
We have a suicide crisis that is harming way too many people
Sadly, our nation is in the midst of a mental health crisis. In 2022, gun suicides in America reached an all-time high. In Tennessee, our suicide rate is 25% higher than the national average, and two-thirds of all suicides are attributable to firearms.
Further, more than half of all firearm-related deaths are suicides. The sheer number of gun-related deaths in our country – more than 48,000 last year – has prompted a national debate over our society’s approach to caring for those in mental health crisis.
As a country, we are beginning to ask ourselves the questions many of us touched by suicide have been asking for a very long time: why is this happening? Are there signals we’re missing? What can we do differently to stop someone from taking their life? ….
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Rev. Dr. Clay Stauffer is senior minister of Woodmont Christian Church and an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University. He is an advisory board member of Voices for a Safer Tennessee.
Rabbi Shana Mackler is the rabbi and senior scholar at The Temple, Congregation Ohabai Sholom in Nashville.