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USA Today: More and more children are killing themselves with guns

A study found a 60% increase in kids ages 10 to 17 committing suicide with a firearm from 2007-2014

Dr. Denise Dowd

Each day, 19 children in the United States are either killed or injured by a firearm.

That's nearly 6,000 wounded and 1,300 killed each year, making guns the third leading cause of death of those ages 1 to 17, outpaced only by unintentional injuries such as car crashes and drownings and illnesses like cancer.

More than half of these deaths are homicides, but a growing number — nearly 40% — occur because of suicide, which among young people is often an impulsive act with 10 minutes or less of deliberation.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the most comprehensive study of firearm injuries and deaths among children, found that from 2007 to 2014, there was a 60% increase in kids aged 10 to 17 committing suicide with a firearm. Meanwhile, accidental shootings and homicides have seen declines.

It's a public health problem that cuts short the lives of young Americans, or leaves them disabled or ill. These injuries and deaths, researchers said, can be avoided through street outreach programs, programs to manage emotions, therapy and securely storing guns in homes.

Means matter in suicides

White teens and American Indians kill themselves with guns at nearly four times the rate as African-American and Hispanic children.

A child or teen's decision to take their own life often comes amid personal crises or relationship problems. It happens quickly, within minutes, experts warn. Emotions take over, trumping anything they've been taught about guns.

This is why "means matter," when it comes to youth suicide, experts argue. Put simply, the methods available for young people to kill themselves play a factor in whether they'll die, be injured or live.

Denise Dowd, a professor of pediatrics and emergency room doctor at Children's Mercy Kansas City, explains thoughts of suicide are fleeting in children. It tends to pass through their mind quickly, meaning the availability of a gun could make the difference.

"If you can buy time, people will pass through it," she said. "It's access. They're impulsive."

She said the safest home, "is a home without guns." If you do have guns, she added, make sure they're locked up.

Your kid may be trustworthy, warns Dowd, but when they're upset, "it matters how they feel at the time."

Suicide doesn't mean a mental illness diagnosis

In only about a quarter of these suicides did a child have a mental health diagnosis, signaling that a known mental health problem is only one way to predict if a child is at risk of suicide.

The CDC study, which will be published in the July 2017 edition of the medical journal Pediatrics, found 18% of those who committed suicide were receiving mental health treatment, a quarter told someone else they wanted to die and 34% were in a depressed mood at the time of their death.


Read the full article via USA Today.

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