Recognizing Suicide and Shifting Narratives in Rural Communities

The Challenge

Three out of four Americans incorrectly believe mass shootings, community violence, and unintentional shootings are the largest source of gun deaths, when in fact, suicide by guns account for the greatest share. Many Pennsylvanians are stunned to learn that the majority of gun fatalities in the Commonwealth result from suicide. This misunderstanding, which challenges the dominant narrative in areas with high rates of gun ownership, results in a low proportion of rural residents ranking gun violence as a problem in their communities.

The Project

Through this Emerging Leader Fellowship, Christa Caceres will work with the CeaseFirePA Education Fund to develop a network of survivors, gun owners, and local leaders who recognize firearm suicide as dangerous to their communities. Christa will uncover narratives about how high gun ownership increases suicide risk to shift the localized understanding of gun violence and educate decision-makers and community members about this silent crisis.

Specifically, this Fellowship will enable Christa to:

  • Identify perceptions about firearms and suicide in five rural counties through quantitative data gathering; community forums; and extensive interviews with community leaders, suicide prevention advocates, mental health organizations, coroners, public health experts, and other local partners.
  • Compile a report summarizing public perspectives on firearm suicide, combining data with qualitative analysis and storytelling.
  • Create a network of credible messengers who can shape the narrative around gun suicide in their communities and provide them with narrative-shifting training and support.
  • Elevate a new narrative around gun suicide to educate decision-makers and community members in rural areas about the importance of gun control policies that can stem the tide of this epidemic.

Christa Caceres, MS

Emerging Leader Fellow

2023 – 2025

CeaseFirePA Education Fund