The National Comorbidity Survey—Adolescent Supplement questioned 10,123 adolescents from 2001 to 2004 and found that 29% reported a firearm in the house, and about one-third of that group said they had easy access to and an ability to fire the weapon, wrote Joseph A. Simonetti, M.D., M.P.H., of the Department of Medicine and the School of Public Health at the University of Washington and the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle and colleagues.
A little over half (54%) of adolescents with firearms access met lifetime criteria for a mental disorder compared 49% of those with a mental disorder but without firearm access. However, the researchers said, “a greater proportion of those with access had a recent history of alcohol abuse (8.2% vs. 2.9%), a lifetime history of alcohol abuse (10.1% vs. 3.8%), and a lifetime history of drug abuse (11.4% vs. 6.9%)”—all factors found at higher rates among those who die by suicide.
Parents may not be aware that children have access to a gun or that access is a mitigable risk factor for suicide, suggested the authors, who stressed that “[F]urther attention to developing and implementing evidence-based strategies to decrease firearm access among adolescents is warranted.”
For more in Psychiatric News about addressing firearm safety in medical visits, see "Court Upholds Ban on Doctors Discussing Gun Ownership."