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Journal Article


Fleegler EW. JAMA Netw. Open 2021; 4(10): e2127965.


(Copyright © 2021, American Medical Association)






Every year, more than 1000 high school-age youth die by suicide using a firearm.1 The statistics of youth firearm suicide are sobering. From 2010 to 2019, the rate of teenage firearm suicides increased 59%, while the rate of nonfirearm suicides increased 29%. By 2019, teenage males used a firearm 51% of the time and teenage females used a firearm 25% of the time when they die by suicide.

Two decades of research have unequivocally shown that access to lethal means matters when it comes to suicide. Simply put, when a firearm is used in a suicide attempt, 91% of individuals attempting suicide will die; when an overdose is the mechanism, 2% die. Furthermore, a direct association exists between state-level household firearm ownership rates and suicide rates.

Unfortunately, the capacity for targeted interventions that reduce youths' suicide risk, especially related to firearms, is severely limited, as virtually no data exist about where firearms are accessible across the US. The study by Spark et al3 begins to fill in the gap. Spark et al3 use data from the 2019 Health Kids Colorado Survey, an anonymous survey of nearly 60 000 students across 256 high schools. Among the key measures were perceived easy access to a handgun and varying levels of self-reported mental health distress, including sadness, suicidal ideation, suicide plans, and attempted suicide.

Spark et al evaluated these data at the level of individual high schools, with a goal of identifying the geospatial associations of these risk factors (ie, do schools with higher easy handgun access cluster near other schools with higher easy handgun access?) as well as the associations among handgun access, suicidality, and urbanicity. Moving beyond research, Spark et al3 provided a potential public health intervention through the identification of specific high schools with high rates of easy handgun access as well as high levels of suicide risk. This type of work could provide a guide for other states looking to focus resources to reduce suicide risk among high school students...

Language: en


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