Possession of Household Firearms and Firearm-Related Discussions with Clinicians Among Veterans Receiving VA Mental Health Care

Arch Suicide Res. 2020;24(sup1):260-279. doi: 10.1080/13811118.2019.1572555. Epub 2019 Apr 3.


Objectives: To assess possession of household firearms among veterans receiving mental health care and the frequency of their discussions with clinicians about firearms. Methods: We surveyed random samples of veterans receiving mental health care in each of five purposively chosen, geographically diverse VA facilities; 677 (50% of recipients) responded. Results: 45.3% (95% CI 41.2, 49.3) of veteran respondents reported household firearms; 46.9% of those with suicidal thoughts and 55.6% with a suicide plan had household firearms. Only 27.5% of all veteran respondents and 44% of those with recent suicidal ideation and household firearms had had a firearm-related discussion with a clinician. Discussion: Many veterans receiving mental health care can readily access firearms, a highly lethal means for suicide. Increasing clinician-patient discussions and health system efforts to reduce firearm access might reduce suicide in this clinical population.

Keywords: firearms; mental health providers; suicide risk; veterans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services
  • Middle Aged
  • Ownership*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*