I became a gun violence survivor on August 21, 2001, when my youngest brother, Pip, took the hunting gun that our grandfather had given him and shot and killed himself. There will always be a “before” and “after” for me. Before my brother died, I saw gun violence and suicide as something that happened to someone else. I was sure that I knew what was going on with my family members and that if they needed help, they would ask for it. After my brother died, I found out that I can’t leave anything to chance. I always ask if someone is OK, let them know if I am worried about them and never let someone leave without giving them a heartfelt goodbye. I know now that you don’t get second chances.
I am now an advocate for eliminating the stigma of suicide by talking about it and trying to bring depression in to the open. So many men in Minnesota are like my brother — they don’t know how / are ashamed to ask for help, so they find the answer at the end of a gun. And if someone tells me they are a gun owner, I ask them how they lock their gun. So many will seem surprised and say, “Well, no one in my house is depressed,” and I will often ask them, as a favor to me, to lock their guns so that a bad day doesn’t turn in to a deadly day.