Teen Suicide &
Guidance for Grown-Ups. Menstuff® has compiled information
here on use of firearms by youth in suicide. See also Youth
Suicide. If you are in crisis, 1st call 911 while you're
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One Important Suicide Fact That Nobody Is
How Much Money Does Gun Violence Cost in Your
Youth Suicide by Firearms Task Force
Related Issues: Talking
With Kids About Tough Issues, Guns
One Important Suicide Fact That Nobody Is
Most suicide attempts are unsuccessfulexcept when it comes to
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 firearm.
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
Here's who pays the most for America's $229 billion a year in gun
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.
- 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 al.,
- Youth suicide is a major public health problem in America,
with rates now surpassing those for the nation as a whole (Kachur
et al., 1995).
- 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 al., 1995).
- 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 al., 1993).
- If a gun is used to attempt suicide, a fatal outcome will
result 78% to 90% of the time (Annest et al., 1995; Card,
- 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 professionals, etc.).
- 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 firearms).
- 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 service
Do epidemiological research that would increase our knowledge
- 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 firearms.
- 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
- Do studies of the influence of media portrayals of violence
and firearms use.
- Rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of proposed preventive
interventions for youth suicide.
- 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
- 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, 1970-1980.
- 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, 467-472.
- 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,
- 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. Schultz
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