President's Message: Walk the Talk

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 4/15/24 1:00 PM

Kenyon Gleason, NASGW President

How many of you grew up with parents who told you if you’re going to “talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk”?

What they meant of course is that you can’t just say you’re going to do something, you’ve actually got to do it, or the talk is meaningless. Well, on one particular issue, it’s time for me to start walking a little more often. So these next few paragraphs are going to be just that… talking and walking.

This is not a column I wanted to write. Not because the issue isn’t important, but because it’s a challenging one. It’s hard to talk about mental health and its impacts on our daily lives. It’s even more of a challenge when you throw into the mix the notion of guns and suicide.

Sadly, a very close acquaintance of mine made the tragic decision a few weeks ago to take his life with a firearm. I guarantee you, this is not a person anyone would have guessed was hurting or in need of help for his mental health. For some reason, we often believe it’ll be noticeable. And sometimes that’s true. There can be obvious signs that tip you off a friend or loved one is experiencing high levels of anxiety, stress or depression. And hopefully, those signs inspire you to intervene.


But of course it doesn’t always work that way. People can be very good at acting happy. They demonstrate to their family, friends and community a person you’d never believe was in any way at risk for suicide. Such was the case with my friend. People who’ve known him for decades, co-workers and business partners, even his family, were all surprised because he didn’t fit the vision of someone who was “suffering” with a mental health issue. Many are now asking themselves, “what did I miss?”


So what can we do to help, especially when we aren’t sure if someone is having difficulty? How can we prevent such tragedy and heartbreak? There are no easy answers for sure. But the most important thing we can all do is talk more about how we’re doing. We can have serious conversations with our friends and family members. We can talk purposely and honestly about what we’re going through in our lives. We can also make sure all of our friends and relatives know they can, and should get help if they’re starting to question the value of their life and their importance to the people around them. We can let them know there’s help available and that it’s ok to ask for help.


We need to get more serious as a nation, and specifically as a community of gun owners, about the significance of our mental health. We are all still learning, you and I. We’re learning about the best ways to handle tough issues. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we should keep trying. This is something I obviously care deeply about, but like many of you, not something I feel exceptionally qualified to talk about. But I’m learning.


Some of you know that in addition to my work at NASGW, I hold a volunteer position on the board of Walk the Talk America (WTTA). It’s a group founded by Michael Sodini, the former owner of Eagle Imports. It was a gun suicide in his family that sparked his desire to find a way to help, so he started a group whose mission is to bridge the gap between mental health and responsible gun ownership. When Michael called me a few years ago, I jumped at the chance to help. But like so many, I struggled to understand how I could best be of help, because I was not an “expert.”


Well, even though I’m not an expert, I’ve come to the conclusion the absolute best way for me to help, is to share in more places, with more people, the importance of talking about our mental health and sharing the availability of resources like WTTA. I can be a louder voice in letting people know there is a path forward and out of whatever it is you might be dealing with. If you’re struggling, or know someone who is, one of the first things you can do is take a free, anonymous, mental health screening. You’ll find that screening, and many other resources at


In addition to my personal involvement and support, NASGW is a corporate sponsor of WTTA. Walk the Talk America is always looking for additional partners. Slowly, but surely, WTTA is growing in its influence, scope and reach. The organization has some amazing programs and is finding new and ever more powerful ways to reach out and help those who are hurting.


If you or your company would like to help spread the word, to help save lives through action, visit the WTTA support page and consider joining a growing number of companies in making a difference.


In the case of mental health issues… talking about it is actually the “walking” we can all do together.


Until next time,


Kenyon Gleason
NASGW President

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