Youth Firearm Suicide Increased 56% in the Last Decade Among Youth Between the Ages of 10-24
Steps to Address Suicide Risks Include Policies and Practices That Limits Easy Access to Firearms, Knowing the Warning Signs of Suicide, and Improving Access to Mental Health Services
Recent Data Analyzed by the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund Found the Economic Fallout from the COVID-19 Crisis Could Bring 20 Additional Gun Suicides Per Day in 2020 Without Immediate Action
NEW YORK — A new report from Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund (“Everytown Support Fund”) details an increase in the rate of firearm suicide among young people over the last decade. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children and teens, and, over the past decade, the firearm suicide rate has increased 56% for young people between the ages of 10 to 24 years old.
The report also highlights that the rise in firearm suicide disproportionately impacts certain populations. Over the last decade, the firearm suicide rate has increased 179% and 83% among Asian and Pacific Islander and Black youth, respectively.
As students begin an unpredictable school year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety and loneliness already felt by many young people will likely continue to increase. At the same time, the U.S. has seen an unprecedented surge in gun sales in recent months. This combination of factors heightens concerns about the already growing rate of firearm suicide as many young people continue to stay home and might have easy access to firearms—which almost triples the risk of suicide. Firearm suicides make up nearly half of suicides among young people, so understanding how to prevent young people in crisis from accessing firearms is critical to preventing youth suicide.
“Between gun violence and the pandemic, the United States is facing two public health crises. With an unpredictable school year, young people isolated during the day, and more firearms in homes, the risk of suicide is elevated,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, director of research at Everytown Support Fund. “Youth suicide has been trending up every year for the past decade. We can’t wait to address this crisis. We must act now.”
“Youth suicide by firearm is always an incredibly tragic event. This report is absolutely necessary to educate the general public and to influence policies to ensure the prevention of future youth gun suicides,” said Colleen Creighton, CEO of the American Association of Suicidology. “It is imperative that we continue to get this information into the hands of community leaders to make the biggest possible impact in this country.”
“I know the lasting pain of having a child taken by gun suicide,” said Miami Knight, an Everytown Survivor Fellow whose son Ty-Key died by gun suicide and a volunteer with the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Gun suicide was already a public health crisis before COVID-19 across many communities. During this turbulent time—as always—parents and loved ones should make sure someone in crisis does not have access to a firearm.”
“Gun violence, including gun suicide, has not stopped during the pandemic,” said Carrson Everett, a volunteer with Tri-Cities Students Demand Action in Tennessee. “As students continue to live in the ‘new normal,’ we must check in on our friends, make sure everyone has access to resources, and continue to advocate for gun safety in our communities.”
Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a rise in calls to suicide prevention lifelines across the country. By May, the National Crisis Text Line reported a 40 percent increase in traffic—about 100,000 conversations a month. Today, young people are still isolated, anxious, and might be struggling financially due to COVID-19 and the risk of suicide is elevated. In fact, recently released data by the Center of Disease Control noted that one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 say they’ve considered suicide in the past month because of the pandemic.
Other findings from the youth suicide report include:
- The suicide rate among young people is at a record high, with increases every year since 2007. During this same period, the rate of homicides among young people has not increased each year, and adult suicide rates have been increasing at a slower rate.
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AIAN) have historically had some of the highest rates of suicide in the U.S., with younger AIAN people most heavily impacted.
- The firearm suicide rate among young people in the most rural areas is 2.6 times higher than the rate in the most urban areas.
- States with the highest rates of youth firearm suicide are Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and New Mexico. States with the fastest-growing firearm suicide rates among young people over the past decade include Oregon, Virginia, Michigan, Idaho, and Missouri.
Preventing suicide among young people in the U.S. requires a multi-faceted approach that includes the following recommendations:
- Implement policies that limit easy and immediate access to firearms by those who are at risk of suicide.
- Know the risk factors and warning signs to look for when a loved one may be contemplating suicide.
- Learn how to talk about mental health with the people in your life.
- Get help. Reach out for free and confidential support when you, a loved one, or a peer needs to talk to someone.
Resources for journalists on responsibly covering gun suicide are available here. More information about gun suicide here. To speak with an expert or volunteers with Moms Demand Action, and/or Students Demand Action, please do not hesitate to reach out.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24/7. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) suicidepreventionlifeline.org. You may also contact the Crisis Text Line, which provides trained crisis counseling services over text 24/7. Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. crisistextline.org.
Free and confidential mental health, suicide prevention, and crisis intervention services and resources are also available to people in-need of help, loved ones of those in-need, and frontline workers through the Pandemic Crisis Services Response Coalition at https://www.covidmentalhealthsupport.org