Objective: In Canada, 80% of firearm-related deaths are suicides. Access to firearms is associated with increased suicide rates. This study examines the frequency and factors that influence assessment of firearm access in an emergency setting.
Methods: A total of 15,847 consecutive adults seen for psychiatric consultation in two tertiary emergency departments (EDs) in Winnipeg, Manitoba were interviewed. Data captured whether access to firearms was assessed, and whether respondents endorsed access or not. Comparisons were done to determine group differences among those with and without and with known and unknown firearm access.
Results: Access to firearms was unknown in 47% (n = 7,363) of psychiatric ED consultations, including 43% (n = 998) of individuals who presented with a suicide attempt. Female sex was associated with decreased odds of firearm access (odds ratio [OR] 0.28; 95% CI, 0.22 to 0.35). Being single was associated with lower odds of known firearm access (OR 0.83; 95% CI, 0.77 to 0.89) yet higher likelihood of firearm access (OR 1.36; 95% CI, 1.11 to 1.68). Presenting with a suicide attempt (OR 2.45; 95% CI, 1.80 to 3.34), preparatory acts (OR 6.40; 95% CI, 4.38 to 9.36) and suicidal ideation (OR 2.45; 95% CI, 1.87 to 3.21) were associated with increased odds of reporting access. When clinicians felt there was a high likelihood of future suicide, firearm access remained unknown in half of cases.
Conclusion: Firearm ownership and access is an essential component of a suicide risk assessment and remains unknown in half of individuals seen by psychiatry in this tertiary care ED sample. People presenting with suicidal ideation and attempts were more likely to report access to firearms.
Keywords: emergency psychiatry; firearms assessment; suicide.
Conflict of interest statement
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