Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Exposure to Gun Violence Increases Risk of Suicidality in Black Adults

Black adults who have been exposed to gun violence at any point in their lives may have a higher risk of suicidal ideation, planning a suicide, or attempting a suicide, a study in JAMA Network Open has found.

In April and May 2023, Daniel C. Semenza, Ph.D., of Rutgers University and colleagues assessed survey responses of 3,015 Black adults in the U.S. with a mean age of approximately 46 years. The researchers measured suicidal ideation using eight items from the self-report version of the Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors Interview; they also measured suicide attempt preparation if participants indicated they had done something to prepare a suicide attempt such as gaining access to a method or writing a suicide note.

The researchers also asked participants four questions related to gun violence exposure:

  • Have you ever been shot on purpose by another person with a firearm?
  • Have you ever been threatened with a firearm by another person?
  • Do you personally know someone such as a friend or family member who has been shot on purpose by another person with a firearm?
  • Have you ever witnessed or heard about someone being shot intentionally by another person with a firearm in your neighborhood?

Overall, 56% of participants reported being exposed to at least one type of gun violence, and 12% reported being exposed to at least three types of gun violence. Participants who were exposed to one or two types of gun violence had 1.69 times the odds of reporting lifetime suicidal ideation, whereas those who were exposed to three or more types of gun violence had 2.27 times the odds of reporting lifetime suicidal ideation.

Although the study did not identify the mechanisms to explain the path from cumulative gun violence exposure to suicidal thoughts, the researchers posited that exposures to such traumatic experiences are associated with increased hopelessness and diminished social and community connections. They added that such exposures are also associated with diminished sense of value, such as diminished employment and wealth-generation opportunities.

“The disproportionate burden of [gun violence exposure] borne by Black communities and exacerbated by numerous structural inequities may represent an even more substantial injustice than previously understood, as it may be influencing suicide rates within those same communities,” Semenza and colleagues wrote.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Gun Violence Is an Underrecognized Social Determinant of Health.”

(Image: Getty Images/iStock/sandsun)

Don't miss out! To learn about newly posted articles in Psychiatric News, please sign up here.


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.