DC – Nearly one in five children and teens found to be at risk for suicide report
that there are guns in their homes, and 15 percent of those at risk for suicide
with guns in the home know how to access both the guns and the bullets, according
to a study to be presented Monday, May 6, at the Pediatric Academic Societies
(PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC.
is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 years in
the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Nearly half of youths who die by suicide use a firearm.
conducted a study to create a suicide risk screening tool that health care
professionals in emergency departments (EDs) could use to figure out which youths
need further mental health evaluation to keep them from harming themselves. As
part of that study, researchers asked youths about access to guns in or around
their home and about gun/bullet storage.
more than 1.5 million adolescents, the ED is their primary point of contact
with the health care system, which makes the ED an important place for
identifying youth at risk for suicide,” said Stephen J. Teach, MD, MPH, FAAP, associate
chief in the Division of Emergency Medicine at Children’s National Medical
Center in Washington, DC, and co-author who will be presenting the study at the
clinicians and parents do not know how to ask youth about suicide, so they
require screening tools to assist in detection, added study senior author Lisa M.
Horowitz, PhD, MPH, staff scientist/pediatric psychologist at the National
Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda,
Md. “According to our data, when asked their opinion, nearly all of the kids in
our study were in favor of suicide screening in the ED. Our study shows that if
you ask kids directly about suicide, they will tell you what they are
participants included 524 patients ages 10 to 21 who were seen for
medical/surgical or psychiatric complaints at one of three pediatric EDs. They
were asked to fill out a 17-item questionnaire that the researchers used to develop
the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ), a four-question screening tool that
can be used for all pediatric patients visiting the ED. The ASQ has been
validated against a longer more in-depth suicide assessment tool.
many youths who kill themselves have mental health disorders, up to 40 percent of
youths who kill themselves have no known mental illness,” said co-author and
youth suicide expert Jeffrey
PhD, principal investigator at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s
Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University. “Therefore,
it is important to screen all children and adolescents for suicide, regardless
of the reason they are visiting the ED.”
the patients who completed the screening tools, 151 (29 percent) were found to
be at risk for suicide, and 17 percent of them reported guns in or around the
home. Of those at risk for suicide and reporting guns in the home, 31 percent knew
how to access the guns, 31 percent knew how to access the bullets, and 15
percent knew how to access both the guns and the bullets.
study highlights the importance of parents understanding the risks of having
guns in their homes,” said Dr. Bridge. “Being at risk for suicide and having
access to firearms is a volatile mix. These conversations need to take place in
the ED with families of children at risk for suicide.”
the abstract, “Access to Firearms among Patients Screening Positive for Suicide
Risk in Pediatric Emergency Departments,” go to http://www.pas-meeting.org/2013DC/Abstracts/LB%20Pub%20All%202013.pdf
research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National
Institute of Mental Health, the National Institutes of Health (Drs Horowitz
& Pao); institutional research funds from the Research Institute at
Nationwide Children’s Hospital and grant K01 MH-69948 from the National
Institute of Mental Health (Dr Bridge); institutional research funds from the
Program for Patient Safety and Quality at Boston Children’s Hospital Boston
Academic Societies (PAS) are four individual pediatric organizations that
co-sponsor the PAS Annual Meeting – the American Pediatric Society, the Society
for Pediatric Research, the Academic Pediatric Association, and the American
Academy of Pediatrics. Members of these organizations are pediatricians and
other health care providers who are practicing in the research, academic and
clinical arenas. The four sponsoring organizations are leaders in the
advancement of pediatric research and child advocacy within pediatrics, and all
share a common mission of fostering the health and well-being of children
For more information, visit www.pas-meeting.org. Follow news of the PAS meeting on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PedAcadSoc.