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Many Suicidal Kids Have Access to Guns at Home: Study

MONDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly one-fifth of children and teens at risk for suicide say there are guns in their homes, and many know how to get their hands on both the guns and the bullets, a new study of U.S. emergency room patients found.

It included 524 patients, aged 10 to 21, who were seen for physical or mental health issues at three pediatric emergency departments. They were asked to complete a questionnaire designed to screen for suicide risk.

About 29 percent (151) of the patients were found to be at risk for suicide, and 17 percent of them said there were guns in or around their home. Of those who were at risk for suicide and reported guns in the home, 31 percent knew how to get the guns, 31 percent knew how to get bullets and 15 percent knew how to get both the guns and the bullets.

The findings are scheduled for Monday presentation at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"This study highlights the importance of parents understanding the risks of having guns in their homes," study co-author and youth suicide expert Jeffrey Bridge said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.

"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," said Bridge, principal investigator at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24 in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guns are used by nearly half of young people who commit suicide.

"While many youths who kill themselves have mental health disorders, up to 40 percent of youths who kill themselves have no known mental illness," Bridge said. "Therefore, it is important to screen all children and adolescents for suicide, regardless of the reason they are visiting the ED."

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about teen suicide.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, May 6, 2013

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