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News & Press: Mental Health Disorders

Guns, Depression Fuel Suicides

Monday, April 15, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rebecca Roberts
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9 of the 112 fatal shootings in Volusia and Flagler counties in 2018 involved people killing themselves

BY FRANK FERNANDEZ | FRANK.FERNANDEZ@NEWS-JRNL.COM | APRIL 15, 2019

IN THE SERIES: MAIN | SUICIDES | ACCIDENTAL SHOOTINGS | UNSOLVED SHOOTINGS | SHOT BY A COP | LIMITING VIOLENCE

 

Nestor Lazuka circled the day, June 14, 2018, on a calendar. It was a Thursday, and marked nine-months since his wife's death.

He left several thousand dollars on a desk in his Port Orange home for his mother, and then he drove about 2 ½ miles to the Volusia Memorial Funeral Home on Clyde Morris Blvd. He had been there the day before making his funeral arrangements.

Lazuka walked behind the funeral home and sat near the flower delivery entrance with his back to some hedges. He draped an American flag across his lap.

Then Lazuka stuck a .38-caliber revolver in his mouth and shot himself.

Lazuka had parked his Ford Explorer nearby. Inside police found a note signed by Lazuka describing the order in which he would like his family and friends notified of his death and how his possessions should be distributed. Police also found a note in which Lazuka described the gun he used, saying it was a black, hammerless .38-special. He added: "This was a voluntary suicide."

Demographically, the 70-year-old Lazuka was like the majority of people who chose to end their own lives with a gun in Volusia and Flagler counties in 2018 — an older, white man.

The News-Journal collected and analyzed every local report of suicide and attempted suicide in 2018. The effort was part of a first-of-its kind overall analysis of every incident in which a person was shot during the year in the two-county area. The shootings sometimes involved crimes or accidents. But nearly 80 percent of the fatal shootings were suicides.

Lazuka, like everyone else in the two counties who used a gun to attempt suicide last year, was able to kill himself.

 

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The difference in the success rate of those who use a gun to kill themselves as opposed to those who attempt suicide by other means is stark.

Records gathered from all 15 police agencies and the medical examiner show that all 89 people in Volusia and Flagler who used a gun in 2018 to attempt suicide died. 

In contrast, last year there were 419 suicide attempts without the use of guns in the two counties. Of those attempts, 63 were successful.

“We know if a person is suicidal, if there is a firearm in the home, one of the first things that need to be done is remove that firearm,” Sharbono said.

Nearly 22,000 people in the United States, including more than 950 children and teens, kill themselves with a firearm every year, according to Everytown For Gun Safety, a gun control and anti-gun violence advocacy group.

Nationally, 85 percent of people who intentionally shoot themselves die of their wounds, according to Everytown, which cites studies from 2004 and 2012.

By contrast, only 5 percent of people who try to end their lives without a gun manage to kill themselves, according to the organization, which cited studies from 2001 and 2012. Nationally, nearly two-thirds of deaths involving guns are suicides