Can We Prevent Firearm Suicides?

Does owning a gun increase the likelihood of suicide?  Based on most suicide statistics, the answer appears to be yes. 

According to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicides account for more than 60 percent of all firearm deaths in the United States.   In 2013 alone, 41,149 suicide deaths occurred of which the majority were firearm-related.    In that same year, the number of deaths from homicide was only a fraction of that figure (16, 121).   

So why aren't people paying more attention to this appalling death toll?   Within weeks of the school shooting at Sandy Hook, more than half of all U.S. states introduced legislation to boost security in schools despite the lack of clear evidence that metal detectors and a police presence in schools were actually effective.   By comparison,  people using guns to commit suicide rarely generate much attention except from the family members and friends who have been left behind. 

If anything, there is often little publicity surrounding gun-related suicides.   Guidelines created by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention encourage journalists  to avoid providing any details about suicides when they happen for fear that they might inspire other people to do the same.   While the possibility of copycat suicide is certainly real, could this lack of publicity also be why so many people aren't aware of how common firearm suicides really are?

A new article published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry explores the reality behind firearm-related suicide in the United States.   Written by Carol Runyan, Talia Brown, and Ashley Brooks-Russell of the Colorado School of Public Health, this article points out many of the popular misconceptions about suicide and how they may be contributing to the problem we are facing today.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.


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