CLEVELAND, Ohio — Denise Holcomb is a University Heights mother who lost her son to a gun-related suicide in 2002 and also lost a grandniece in the same way last year, that is why she's in support of Life Side Ohio, a new campaign of direct suicide prevention outreach dedicated to the firearms community.
The new initiative was set up in partnership with the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, which is also working with the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Service Board of Cuyahoga County, or ADAMHS Board. The program is also working in connection with the Buckeye Firearms Association and Ohio firearms retailers statewide to spread important awareness on family gun safety.
Holcomb said the firearms-related suicide deaths of her loved ones have also inspired her to start her own suicide prevention outreach program called Removing the Stigma in memory of the son she lost.
“This whole campaign is very important to me because it’s bringing the awareness of guns and suicide," Holcomb said. “We consider ourselves real warriors for those who have lost loved ones by suicide, being their source of support and connecting them with resources. It’s in my heart, it’s a part of who I am, it’s a part that keeps me going.”
Charde’ Hollins, ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County behavioral health prevention specialist, told News 5 Life Side Ohio will make a difference in reducing gun-related suicides statewide.
“Generally 50% of suicides are death with a firearm," Hollins said. “It’s being able to have conversations with gun enthusiasts who also have a passion for suicide prevention.”
“We know that those who have life experience with death by suicide, whether it’s someone that they know or cared for, have either died by suicide or attempted suicide, the risk of repeating that is higher. One of the things that we are targeting are those within law enforcement as well as veterans. When we have gun locks or separating our ammunition from the actual gun, we are giving people tools in order to make sure that they can live.”
Locally, Fin Feather Fur Outfitters, which sells firearms, has joined the Life Side Ohio initiative. Sales team leader Jerrod Combs is an Army Veteran who believes home gun safety awareness is crucial.
“It’s an epidemic that we need to fight," Combs said. "You need to start off with communication, talk about firearm safety with your kids, with your loved ones.”
“As a veteran, I saw lots of people that were affected by mental health and several times that did lead to suicide. Get a safe, get a lockbox, something that makes it one more, or two more steps harder for somebody that shouldn’t have it to get their hands on it. It could take that much more time for them to change their mind, and for that storm in their head to pass, and then they’re still here with us.”
Meanwhile, Holcomb said she's dedicated her life to preventing gun-related suicides in honor of her lost son.
“Every life to me, every life that I can save is important, Holcomb said. “I’m doing this because of my love for you, and I will never let what happened change that, and your legacy will live on in me forever.”