The suicide rate among Veterans is 1.5 times greater than that for civilians, partly a result of the high use of firearms as the means for suicide. One effective strategy to reduce Veteran suicide by firearms is to provide counseling on firearm safety as a method of means reduction. However, many clinicians do not discuss firearm safety with Veterans.
This study evaluates a one-hour educational seminar for clinicians on lethal means safety.
Materials and Methods
One hundred and ninety clinicians from the Veterans Health Administration, including social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and nurses, participated in the training. The seminar was streamed during the South Central Mental Health Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center’s Community-Based Outpatient Clinic Mental Health Grand Rounds, for which participants were eligible for continuing education units. Data were collected immediately after the training and four months later.
After completing the training, participants believed that it was important to speak with Veterans about firearm safety and felt knowledgeable and empowered to do so. Four months after the seminar, participants had counseled, on average, over half of Veterans treated about lethal means safety.
Participants reported the value of normalizing discussions about firearm safety with their Veterans and focusing on the safety aspect while discussing firearms.
This webinar was effective in providing clinicians the skills to talk with Veterans about firearm safety and continued to impact their practice four months after training. The training is available for free on our website at https://www.mirecc.va.gov/visn16/public-health-approach-to-firearms-and-death-by-suicide.asp.