Suicidal Patients Rarely Asked About Firearm Access in ER
These findings point to missed chances for intervention.
HealthDay News — Only half of suicidal patients in US emergency departments are asked if they have access to guns, according to a study published online March 17 in Depression and Anxiety.
Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, and colleagues interviewed 1358 emergency department patients in 7 states who had either attempted suicide or were thinking about it. The investigators also examined the patients' medical charts.
"We found in about 50% of cases there is no documentation by the doctor that anyone asked the patients about firearms access. That means there is a large group of patients we are missing a chance to intervene for," Betz said in a university news release. About 25% of the patients who had guns at home said they kept at least 1 gun loaded and unlocked. Half said they had easy access to guns, which puts them at increased risk for suicide in the future.
About 8% of all emergency department patients are admitted to the hospital for either attempting suicide or thinking about it. That shows the important roles emergency departments play in suicide prevention, the researchers said. "Multiple emergency department visits appear to be a risk factor for suicide, and many suicide victims are seen in the emergency department shortly before death," the researchers said in the news release. "Based on models using national suicide statistics, emergency department-based interventions might help decrease suicide deaths by 20% annually."
Betz ME, Miller M, Barber C, Beaty B, Miller I, Camargo CA, Boudreaux ED. Lethal Means Access And Assessment Among Suicidal Emergency Department Patients. Depress Anxiety. 2016; doi:10.1002/da.22486.