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Gun owners less likely to report suicidal thoughts, despite past attempts, study finds

Gun owners less likely to report suicidal thoughts, despite past attempts, study finds
Gun owners may be less likely to report having suicidal thoughts than non-gun owners, despite having a history of attempting suicide, a new study suggests. Photo by jasongillman/Pixabay

May 11 (UPI) -- Gun owners with a recent suicide attempt are less likely than non-gun owners to report experiencing suicidal thoughts, even though firearms are the most common method of suicide, a study published Wednesday found.

In the survey of more than 9,000 adults, about one-third of whom were gun owners, those who reported firearm ownership were up to 50% more likely to have suicidal thoughts and nearly twice as likely to plan a suicide attempt, the data, published Wednesday by JAMA Network Open, showed.

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The gun owners in the study were also nearly four times more likely to have attempted suicide than non-gun owners, the researchers said.

However, despite this history, gun owners were about half as likely to report having suicidal thoughts to a healthcare professional or seek help, according to the researchers.

RELATED 5M more Americans acquired guns during COVID-19 pandemic

"Part of the reason that we've not been better at preventing suicide is we always try to find, 'What's the one path that everybody follows?'" study co-author Craig Bryan said in a press release.

"But ... there are multiple paths, and we need to customize different strategies, interventions and prevention approaches for those different pathways," said Bryan, a clinical psychologist and director of the Division of Recovery and Resilience at Ohio State University in Columbus.

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The suicide rate in the United States has increased by more than 30% since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with guns being the primary method, research indicates.

RELATED Survey: 1 in 5 Colorado high school students has access to a handgun

Previous studies have found that gun owners are at higher risk for suicide than non-gun owners.

Among the gun owners surveyed for this study, nearly two-thirds were male, 75% were White and more than one in four were military veterans, the data showed.

Up to 12% of gun owners in the study reported having suicidal thoughts, while just over 6% said they had attempted suicide, the researchers said.

RELATED Buying gun during pandemic may increase suicide risk, study says

Of non-gun owners, up to 11% indicated they had suicidal thoughts, but less than 2% attempted suicide, according to the researchers.

Medical professionals need to check in on patients' mental health, perhaps even more so if they have access to firearms, Bryan and his colleagues said.

"Suicidal crises tend to come on suddenly, but don't last very long," Bryan said.

"So, if we limit access to lethal methods during that short window of time, that could potentially prevent a suicide," he said.

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