The Free Press, Mankato, MN


May 8, 2013

Educate On Suicide, gun risks

A recent study on suicide presented at a conference of pediatricians should be a reminder that there are many things we can do to prevent the use of guns in suicides involving young people.

There are plenty of risk factors at work that remind even unsuspecting parents and family that guns can be kept safer under lock and key.

The study found that 17 percent of kids at risk for committing suicide have guns in the home and 15 to 30 percent said they had access to guns, bullets or both. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 and half those who commit suicide use a gun.

The study doesn’t really show the rate of suicide is related to access to guns, only that access can be a risk factor in someone attempting to take their life and succeeding, and that guns appear to be one of the primary methods of suicide.

The study was conducted by researchers from three cities interviewing 524 emergency department patients between the ages of 10 and 21. About 29 percent, 151 participants, answered questions about suicidal thinking that identified as a risk for suicide. About 17 percent told interviewers they were knew of guns in their residence. On average, those with guns in their homes were 14 years old.

The study was enlightening, in part, because those interviewed answered questions that indicated their risk of suicide and their access to guns. Researchers say it only underscores the important of parents understanding both the risk factors and accessibility factors.

Importantly, 40 percent of those who commit suicide do not have a mental illness, according to one of the researcher Jeffrey A. Bridge, co-author of the study and a professor at Ohio State University.

Studies of youth who have attempted suicide show that often the act was impulsive with many saying they thought about it for less than five minutes.

Many pediatricians are now asking families where children may be at risk of suicide if there are guns in the home. It raises the awareness of what could happen and the risk factors. Unfortunately that kind of question has drawn the ire of pro-gun lawmakers in some states.

But awareness of suicide risk and availability of guns just makes sense. It’s a gun safety issue and a child safety issue.

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