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Suicidal Ideation More Likely in Teens With Firearm Access

Authors say findings highlight need to screen all teens for suicide risk and access to firearms

WEDNESDAY, June 1, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Adolescents with firearm access have higher odds of suicidal ideation and prior suicide attempt compared with teens without firearm access, according to a study published online May 14 in Academic Pediatrics.

Samaa Kemal, M.D., from the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and colleagues compared current suicidal ideation, prior suicide attempt, and associated self-reported risk factors in adolescents with and without access to firearms. The analysis included 15,806 responses to a clinical behavioral health assessment completed by adolescents presenting to a tertiary children’s hospital emergency department.

The researchers found that 14 percent of respondents reported a firearm in the home or ability to access one within 24 hours, while 6.8 percent reported current suicidal ideation and 9.1 percent reported prior suicide attempt. Compared with youth without firearm access, youth with firearm access were more likely to have current suicidal ideation (odds ratio, 1.52) and prior suicide attempt (odds ratio, 1.61). The link between suicide risk factors and increases in the odds of current suicidal ideation and prior suicide attempt was similar between the groups with and without firearm access.

“Universal mental health screening of adolescents is particularly important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to both increased firearm availability and worsening indicators of youth mental health,” Kemal said in a statement. “Proper screening for both suicidality and firearm access can create the opportunity to offer effective firearm safety counseling, such as keeping all firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition, as well as linkage to mental health resources. We must do everything possible to prevent tragic deaths among teens who are struggling.”

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