Background: Approximately 2,900 youth who die by suicide each year in the United States use a firearm. To inform lethal means safety counseling efforts, this study aimed to describe firearm access among youth deemed at risk for suicide in pediatric medical settings.
Methods: Youth who presented to one of four urban pediatric medical centers were screened for suicide risk and access to firearms. Suicide risk was determined by a positive screen on the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) tool. Firearm access was assessed via a structured questionnaire.
Results: This secondary analysis analyzed data from 1065 youth aged 10 to 17 years. Overall, 110 (10.3%) participants screened positive for suicide risk. Among those at risk, 28% (31/110) reported guns kept in or around their home, 8% (9/110) had access to a firearm, and 5% (6/110) reported that bullets were not stored separately from the guns.
Conclusions: Over a quarter of youth at risk for suicide reported a firearm stored in or around their home. To ensure the safety of young people at risk for suicide, clinicians should assess whether youth have access to firearms and conduct lethal means safety counseling with youths, as developmentally appropriate, and their parent/caregivers.
HIGHLIGHTS: 28% of pediatric patients deemed “at risk” for suicide in this study reported a firearm kept in or around their home. Among youth at risk for suicide, 8% reported having access to a firearm. These results add further evidence that it is important for clinicians to conduct lethal means safety counseling with patients and their families.