Bottom Line: Examining to what extent firearm ownership and accessibility may be associated with suicide risk among U.S Army soldiers was the aim of this psychological autopsy study. The study included 135 soldiers who died by suicide on active duty between 2011-2013; firearms were the most common method with 61 of 111 soldiers who had a documented method of injury dying this way. Other soldiers were included for comparison based on sociodemographic and Army history risk factors for suicide death, as well as soldiers with recent suicidal thoughts. Next-of-kin and Army supervisors were interviewed about soldiers who died by suicide. Soldiers who died by suicide were more likely to own firearms, store loaded firearms at home, and carry personal guns in public than some other soldiers, and those factors combined were associated with an increased likelihood of suicide death. The study was limited by the small number of soldiers included. The results suggest a continued focus on lethal means counseling is warranted and one aspect of focus could be the separate storage of ammunition and firearms.
Authors: Catherine L. Dempsey, Ph.D., Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, and coauthors
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