Thursday, February 14, 2013

Most Gun Deaths Are Suicides

Since the schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., much of the nation’s attention has focused on mass shootings. But deaths involving guns are very likely to involve one victim—the shooter.

A report in the New York Times today, drawing on statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, notes that nearly 20,000 of the 30,000 deaths from guns in the United States in 2010 were suicides.

Experts quoted by the Times emphasize that guns are particularly lethal. And it cites statistics from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center showing that suicidal acts with guns are fatal in 85 percent of cases, while those with pills are fatal in just 2 percent of cases.

“Suicidal acts are often prompted by a temporary surge of rage or despair, and most people who attempt them do not die,” according to the report. “In a 2001 study of 13- to 34-year-olds in Houston who had attempted suicide but were saved by medical intervention, researchers from the CDC found that, for more than two-thirds of them, the time that elapsed between deciding to act and taking action was an hour or less. The key to reducing fatalities, experts say, is to block access to lethal means when the suicidal feeling spikes.”

The Times article is here. For more on the subject of suicide see Psychiatric News here.

(Image: Vartanov Anatoly/


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.