Easy accessibility of firearms risky for youth with mental health problems

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2014, firearm injuries contributed to 63.7 percent suicides and 32.8 homicides. It also reported that in 2015, firearms were the most common method of suicide among American males. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), it was also the most common form of suicide among females      (33.4 percent) in the same year and accounted for nearly 50 percent of total suicides (22,018).

There is a close relationship between mental illness as a cause for suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts using firearms. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute has revealed that there are about 350 million guns in circulation in the U. S., which is approximately 113 guns for every 100 people. In 2014, nearly 4,300 young people aged 10-24 were victims of homicide. Further, one in three houses with kids have access to unlocked loaded guns. A new study by the researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine has found that teens and youths with a history of suicide attempt or mental health issues have easier access to firearms, either in their home or at a friend’s house.

The study was funded by the CDC and was presented during the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in May 2017. The study involved 1,100 youths aged 10-17 and 647 parents living in two Colorado communities with high risk for violence.

Key takeaways of study

The researchers made the following observations:

  1. Two percent of the youth reported to own a gun or have one in their possession while seven percent admitted that it was easy for them to get a gun. Nine percent were aware about how to acquire it and 15 percent said that they have at least one friend who owns a gun.
  2. Participants with higher risk for future violent behaviour were more likely to know from where to get a gun as compared to those not at risk (25 percent versus 5 percent) and more likely to have a friend who has a gun (40 percent versus 10 percent).
  3. Participants who attempted suicide were more than twice as likely to have a friend who owned a gun than those who did not attempt suicide (38 percent versus 16 percent).
  4. Youths suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, were twice as likely to say that getting a gun was easy as compared to those without any mental disorder.
  5. Participants whose parents owned a gun were three times more likely to confess that it was easy to get a gun compared to those whose parents do not own a gun.

The lead researcher, Eric Sigel, professor of paediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Adolescent Medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, believe that the high-risk category must be screened and counselled for their probability to have access to firearms so that the risks can be minimized. Parents should be careful enough to hide the guns in safe storage devices beyond the reach of their children.

Treatment for mental disorders

Mental disorders are closely linked to fatal outcomes. Patients often experience negative thoughts and emotions, which push them to taking drastic steps such as homicide or suicide. It is important for parents and teachers to recognize the warning signs in children and get them the required treatment. As Sigel said, “This is particularly important when considering that 68 percent of attackers in school shootings obtained the guns from their own home or that of a relative.”

If you or a loved one has any mental health issues, the Texas Mental Health Recovery Helpline can connect you to the best facilities providing evidence-based mental health disorders treatment in Texas as per your requirements. Call us at our 24/7 helpline (866) 596-4708 or chat online with one of our representatives in case you want to know more about mental health treatment program in Texas.

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