Clinicians have trouble convincing parents of troubled children to lock up firearms at home.
Rural Americans between the ages of 10 and 24 are twice as likely as their urban counterparts to commit suicide. And while youth suicides have declined across the country in recent years, suicide rates in sparsely populated areas have remained steady. While it is hard to pinpoint the reasons for this disparity -- access to mental health treatments is a major contributor -- one reason may be tied to gun culture.
According to a recently published survey of Midwestern mental health clinicians, one of the challenges rural therapists face is telling parents of troubled youths to lock up their guns. The Midwestern counselors in the survey "agreed that nearly everyone owned and used guns," and said that in a lot of their clients' homes, guns were so commonplace that they became "part of the furniture."
Parents in these areas often need to be reminded that guns are involved in half of all youth suicides, and that having them in the
home makes it easier for young people to end their lives. A 1992 report
in the New England Journal of Medicine linked the presence of the
firearms on a property to the likelihood of a suicide occurring there.
More chillingly, it found "few victims acquired their guns within hours
or days of their death; the vast majority had guns in the home for
months or years."