While suicide prevention month concludes in a few days, suicide will be on the minds of many for the other eleven months of the year. Suicide claims the lives of nearly 40,000 Americans every year and affects the lives of victim’s family, loved ones and entire communities. As the third leading cause of death for young people 10-24 years of age, I as a pediatrician have a duty to ask my teens about suicide and depression. As a separate but potentially related question I also ask about guns in the home. Guns are the leading mechanism of suicide and used in over 50% of all suicides. That is nearly 20,000 suicides with a gun and the suicide rate is rising. Evidence has shown that just the mere presence of a gun in a home increases the risk of suicide.
There are some things we can do to reduce the risk of suicide from guns. Removing the gun from the home is the best way to reduce the risk of gun related injury. This should be a strong consideration if the gun owner or someone else in the home is struggling with mental health problems. If you choose to have a gun in the home keep the gun unloaded and store the gun and ammunition separately. If there are concerns that you or someone you know is at risk of self harm, seek help from a primary care doctor or mental health professional.