Suicide & Firearms
Million & Counting
cALL 800-273-8255 or
text "sos" to 741741
Guidance for Grown-Ups has compiled
information here on use of firearms by youth in suicide. See
Suicide. If you are in crisis,
1st call 911 while you're looking in the front of
your local yellow pages for the number of the local suicide
prevention hotline. If you can't get through to either of
those, click on Emergency Numbers.
suicidal thoughts? Watch
commiting suicide? Call 911
Text 24/7 Crisis
Text Hotline 741741
Want to talk?
(8255) or TDD
Crisis Line - 877-519-9322
Important Suicide Fact That Nobody Is Talking
Much Money Does Gun Violence Cost in Your
statement on youth suicide by
Time Death Toll as of
Suicide Fact That Nobody Is Talking About
Most suicide attempts are unsuccessfulexcept when it
comes to guns.
We hear about gun violence in blips:
The latest mass shooting or grisly homicide brings national
attention and calls to action, and then the issue falls
under the radar. It's easy to forget that two-thirds of gun
deaths aren't high-profile homicides, but
suicideshappening quietly, at a rate of one every 25
A new report by the Brady Center to
Prevent Gun Violence, a gun safety advocacy group, delivers
sobering stats based on data from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention and academic journal
articlesperhaps the most eye-opening being that
keeping a firearm at home increases the risk of suicide by
three times. A whopping 82 percent of teens who commit
suicide with a gun are using a family member's
Guns are a particularly effective
means of suicide precisely because they are so lethal: Of
those who attempt suicide by firearm, nine in 10 succeed. By
contrast, only one in 50 overdose attempts result in death.
The lethality is compounded by impulsivity: The majority of
suicide attempts occur less than an hour after the decision
is made to commit suicide.
One common argument of the gun lobby
is that suicidal individuals will find a way to take their
livesif they don't die by gun, they'll do it by some
other means. But the reality is that 90 percent of those who
fail in a suicide attempt do not end up dying by suicide.
With guns, though, not many get a second chance.
How Much Money
Does Gun Violence Cost in Your State?
Here's who pays the most for America's $229 billion a year
in gun carnage.
Our ongoing investigation of gun
violence, which costs the United States at least $229
billion a year, includes data on the the economic toll for
individual states. Wyoming has a small population but the
highest overall rate of gun deathsincluding the
nation's highest suicide ratewith costs working out to
about $1,400 per resident. Louisiana has the highest gun
homicide rate in the nation, with costs per capita of more
than $1,300. Among the four most populous states, the costs
per capita in the gun rights strongholds of Florida and
Texas outpace those in more strictly regulated California
and New York. Hawaii and Massachusetts, with their
relatively low gun ownership rates and tight gun laws, have
the lowest gun death rates, and costs per capita roughly a
fifth as much as those of the states that pay the most.
statement on youth suicide by firearms
Given the costs to American society
and families wrought by youth suicide, we believe that
immediate action needs to be taken. There is clear evidence
that intervening in or preventing the immediate
accessibility of a lethal weapon can save lives. We have
identified the safe storage of guns as one preventive
intervention approach that would result in a decrease in the
number of youth suicides. We believe that a combination of
indicated, selective and universal preventive interventions
addressing this objective can successfully lead to a
reduction in youth firearm suicides in our homes and
communities. The achievement of this goal can only come
about through the cooperation, coordination, and
collaboration of concerned organizations at all levels of
- Youth suicide is a
multidimensional and complex behavior, with many
associated risk factors (Berman & Jobes, 1991; Brent
& Perper, 1995; Lewinsohn et al., 1996; Marttunen et
- Youth suicide is a major public
health problem in America, with rates now surpassing
those for the nation as a whole (Kachur et al.,
- Suicide is the third-leading cause
of death among youth (ages 15-24) and second-leading
cause of death for 15-19 year olds in the US (Kachur et
- Epidemiological surveys indicate
dramatic increases in suicidal behaviors particularly
among young African American males, Native American
males, and younger children (below the age of 14) (Kachur
et al., 1995).
- Firearms are the most common
method of suicide by youth. This is true for both males
and females, younger and older adolescents, and for all
races (Kachur et al., 1995).
- The increase in the rate of youth
suicide (and the number of deaths by suicide) over the
past four decades is largely related to the use of
firearms as a method (Boyd & Moscicki, 1986; CDC,
1986; Kachur et al., 1995).
- The most common location for the
occurrence of firearm suicides by youth is the home
(Brent et al., 1993).
- There is a positive association
between the accessibility and availability of firearms in
the home and the risk for youth suicide (Brent et al.,
1993; Kellerman et al., 1992).
- The risk conferred by guns in the
home is proportional to the accessibility (e.g., loaded
and unsecured firearms) and the number of guns in the
home (Brent et al., 1993; Kellerman et al.,
- Guns in the home, particularly
loaded guns, are associated with increased risk for
suicide by youth, both with and without identifiable
mental health problems or suicidal risk factors (Brent et
- If a gun is used to attempt
suicide, a fatal outcome will result 78% to 90% of the
time (Annest et al., 1995; Card, 1974)
- Public policy initiatives that
restrict access to guns (especially handguns) are
associated with a reduction of firearm suicide and
suicide overall, especially among youth (Carrington et
al., 1994; Loftin et al., 1991; Sloan et al., 1990
- To achieve firearms-secure homes,
we must educate parents or parental figures who are
gun-owners to (a) understanding the risk associated with
gun ownership with respect to violent death and suicide;
and (b) the importance of gun safety, namely making a gun
inoperable by and inaccessible to youth.
- Professionals who come in contact
with at-risk youth and their families must be educated to
routinely ask about the presence and method of storage of
firearms in the home, and to educate all families about
safe storage practice for families who choose to keep
guns. This can take place in the context of well-child
care by primary care physicians, as well as by any
professional who would come into contact with youth at
risk for suicidal behavior (e.g., child welfare, juvenile
justice, educational professionals, mental health
- Develop, disseminate, and evaluate
technologies that would decrease firearm operability by
youth, thereby making it much more difficult for an
adolescent to use a gun for a suicide and increase market
demand for these new technologies.
- Train and educate about risks
associated with guns in the home; the need for safer
storage of guns; and identification of risk factors for
youth suicide for all parents, professionals who take
care of youth at risk, and all firearms owners.
- At the most universal level of
intervention, develop models promoting community and
parental responsibility for consistent supervision of
adolescents; maintenance of alcohol and drug-free homes;
and if there is a gun in the home, adherence to safe
storage (i.e., inaccessible and inoperable
- Seek partnerships and
collaborations with organizations and agencies that have
a shared stake in the issues of youth suicide and
violence, such as religious organizations, youth service
organizations, juvenile justice, child welfare, community
Do epidemiological research that would
increase our knowledge about:
- Culturally-specific issues
associated with youth suicide and firearms, such as those
in specific ethnic groups (e.g., African American, Native
American), or in rural areas.
- Product-based research to develop
technologies to increase the safety of
- A better understanding of the
cognitions, attitudes, and motivations for gun ownership
and safe storage behaviors
- Do research the gender differences
in youth suicide.
- Understand the causal sequences
leading up to youth suicide by firearms
- Do studies of the influence of
media portrayals of violence and firearms
- Rigorously evaluate the
effectiveness of proposed preventive interventions for
- Establish, support, and maintain
surveillance and reporting systems of firearm-related
suicides and suicidal behaviors.
* * *
- Annest JL, Mercy JA, Gibson, DR,
Ryan, GW (1995): National estimates of nonfatal
firearm-related injury. Beyond the tip of the iceberg.
Journal of the American Medical Association, 273 (22),
- Berman AL, Jobes DA (1991):
Adolescent suicide: Assessment and intervention.
Washington, DC: American Psychological
- Boyd JH, Moscicki, EK (1986).
Firearms and youth suicide. American Journal of Public
Health, 76(10), 1240-1242.
- Brent DA, Perper JA, Moritz G,
Baugher M, Schweers J, Roth C (1993). Firearms and
adolescent suicide: A community case-control study.
American Journal of Diseases of Children, 147,
- Brent DA, Perper JA (1995).
Research in adolescent suicide: Implications for
training, service delivery, and public policy. Suicide
and Life-Threatening Behavior, 25, 222-230.
- Card JJ (1974). Lethality of
Suicidal methods and suicide risk: Two distinct concepts.
Omega, 5, 37-45.
- Carrington PJ, Moyer S (1994). Gun
control and suicide in Ontario. American Journal of
Psychiatry, 151, 606-608.
- Centers for Disease Control
(1986). Youth Suicide in the United States,
- Department of Health and Human
Services (1994). U.S. Public Health Service. Healthy
people 2000: National Health Promotion and Disease
Prevention Objectives. (p. 230). Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office.
- Kachur SP, Potter LB, James SP,
Powell KE (1995). Suicide in the United States 1980-1992.
Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Violence Surveillance Summary Series, No.1.
- Kellerman AL, Rivara FP, Rushford
NB, et al. (1992). Suicide in the home in relationship to
gun ownership. New England Journal of Medicine, 327,
- Lewinsohn PM, Rohde P, Seeley JR
(1996). Adolescent suicidal ideation and attempts:
Prevalence, risk factors, and clinical implications.
Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 3,
- Loftin C., McDowall D., Wiersema
B, Cottey TJ (1991). Effects of restrictive licensing of
handguns on homicide and suicide in the District of
Columbia. New England Journal of Medicine, 325,
- Marttunen MJ, Aro HM, Lonnqvist JK
(1992). Adolescent Suicide: Endpoint of long-term
difficulties. Journal of the American Academy of Child
and Adolescent Psychiatry, 31, 649-654.
- Mrazek PJ, Haggerty RJ (1994).
Reducing risks for mental disorders: Frontiers for
preventive intervention research. Institute of Medicine.
National Academy Press: Washington, D.C.
- Sloan JH, Rivara FP, Reay DT,
Ferris JAJ, Kellermann AL (1990). Firearm regulations and
rates of suicide -- A comparison of two metropolitan
areas. New England Journal of Medicine, 322,
My life has no purpose, no direction,
no aim, no meaning, and yet I'm happy. I can't figure it
out. What am I doing right? Charles M.