Access to guns contributes to rise in teen suicides

A 50% increase in youth suicides in Florida over the past decade has been fueled, in part, by young people’s access to guns, according to a December 30, 2019 article in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The article noted that guns—which play an outsize role in all suicides—are especially dangerous when it comes to teens with undeveloped impulse control and mental health issues. And because guns are so lethal, the result is most often death when teens use them in suicide attempts, said experts quoted in the article. They said that more should be done to promote safe gun storage in people’s homes.

One expert quoted was Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Catherine Barber, director of the Means Matter project at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Barber, who has read hundreds of records about youth suicides, said that teens often act on impulse in difficult situations, such an argument with a parent, boyfriend, or girlfriend, and they may reach for a gun if it is available.

“So often I think, ‘Wow, this could have been prevented,’” if only the child had not had a gun, she said.

Barber was also quoted about guns and suicide in a December 11 Kaiser Health News article about New York’s suicide rate. “The scientific evidence is pretty darn good that having easy access to guns makes the difference whether a suicidal crisis ends up being a fatal or a nonfatal event,” she said.

Read the South Florida Sun Sentinel article: Anguished, armed and impulsive: A deadly mix fuels rising teen suicides

Read the Kaiser Health News article: Among US states, New York’s suicide rate is the lowest. How is that?

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High rates of gun ownership linked with more youth suicides (Harvard Chan School news)