Leo Sher, M.D.
A research group from the Portland State University and Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, has published an important report on firearm suicide among veterans (1). The authors analyzed the data from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). Currently, 17 states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin) participate in the NVDRS, i.e., the authors were able to use the data from 17 states.They estimated the all-age and age-specific suicide rates among veterans and nonveterans; the rates of firearm suicide among veterans and nonveterans; the proportions of suicides involving firearms among veterans and nonveterans; and the relative odds of firearm use among suicidal veterans. Researchers found that the risk of firearms in suicidal behavior was significantly higher among those with military experience regardless of gender and age. The authors explain this observation by the availability, familiarity, and acceptability of firearms as decisive factors in the choice of guns as a suicide method among veterans. Researchers also found that the rates of firearm suicide for the youngest male and female veterans were higher relative to other age groups. Although this study has some limitations, it clearly shows the heightened risk of firearm use among suicidal veterans. Previous studies have shown that suicidal veterans are more likely to own a firearm than their nonsuicidal counterparts, and veterans are also more likely to use a firearm to commit suicide compared to members of the general population (2-5).
- Kaplan MS, McFarland BH, Huguet N. Firearm suicide among veterans in the general population: findings from the national violent death reporting system. J Trauma. 2009;67(3):503-7.
- Kaplan MS, Huguet N, McFarland BH, Newsom JT. Suicide among male veterans: a prospective population-based study. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2007;61:619–624.
- Lambert MT, Fowler DR. Suicide risk factors among veterans: risk management in the changing culture of the Department of Veterans Affairs. J Ment Health Adm 1997;24:350–658.
- Thompson R, Kane V, Cook JM, Greenstein R, Walker P, Woody G. Suicidal ideation in veterans receiving treatment for opiate dependence. J Psychoactive Drugs 2006;38:149–156.
- Desai RA, Dausey DJ, Rosenheck RA. Mental health service delivery and suicide risk: the role of individual patient and facility factors. Am J Psychiatry 2005;162:311–318.