It is a strange fact that only 50% of suicidal patients are asked whether they have access to deadly weapons.
Although it is standard procedure for doctors on duty to ask suicidal patients whether they have access to firearms, only half the doctors actually ask this vital question.
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The research involved 1358 patients who hailed from eight IC units in seven states. They had either made attempts to kill themselves or had suicidal ideation.
They were questioned regarding the possession of firearms. Then their charts were examined. In about 50% of the cases, there was no doctor who asked them regarding firearm possession.
Thus nearly half of the patients had no one who could intervene if they chose to end their lives. They had free access to a deadly weapon.
"We asked the patients about their access to firearms and then reviewed their charts," said the study's lead author Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, from the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
"We found in about 50 percent of cases there is no documentation by the doctor that anyone asked the patients about firearms access. That means there is a large group of patients we are missing a chance to intervene for."
At least 25% of the suicidal patients had a gun at home. They often kept the gun loaded and all that was needed to end a life was a pull of a trigger. 8% of the patients admitted that they had tried to kill themselves before and they also had suicidal ideation.
A number of visits to the ICU seemed to increase the chances of suicide for the patient. Many suicidal patients are seen in the ICU shortly before their death from suicide.
Based on the latest data, ICU suicide patients may have their numbers slashed by 20% on a yearly basis. The problem is that many ICU doctors are doubtful of the efficacy of asking such questions to suicidal patients for suicide prevention.
Thus the practice is contrary to the recommendations given for suicide patients. If they have access to firearms, obviously their chances of doing the job will be increased by a significant percentage.
Among some of the things which should be kept in mind are access to sharp objects, hanging material and medication. However, of all these those who had access to a gun were at the greatest risk of killing themselves.
Those who are at a high risk of suicide tend to kill themselves minutes after saying that they will do so. As for the rate of success, it is 90% for those who kill themselves with a firearm.
Only 2% of those who tried medications had the same success rate. The medical profession needs to intervene here if potential suicide cases are to be stopped from doing the dreadful deed of taking their own life.
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This study got published in the latest edition of Depression and Anxiety.