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Study Probes Access to Guns And Risks For Those With Mental Illness

Suicide Far Outpaces Homicide in US, But Perception Is Just The Opposite

Suicide is twice as common as homicide in the U.S. — and more often involves firearms — but most Americans get it backwards.

In a new study, researchers suggest news reports, movies and TV shows may contribute to the perception of a high risk of firearm homicide. Unfortunately, this creates a substantial gap between ideas and reality, and could lead to further danger.

The new study, led by the University of Washington, Northeastern University and Harvard University, delves into public perceptions of gun violence and the leading causes of death in the U.S.

The report, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, seeks to facilitate national public discussions about firearm ownership and storage.

“This research indicates that in the scope of violent death, the majority of U.S. adults don’t know how people are dying,” said Erin Morgan, lead author and doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at the UW School of Public Health.

“Knowing that the presence of a firearm increases the risk for suicide, and that firearm suicide is substantially more common than firearm homicide, may lead people to think twice about whether or not firearm ownership and their storage practices are really the safest options for them and their household.”

To analyze national public perceptions, researchers used data from the 2015 National Firearms Survey, a web-based survey of nearly 4,000 U.S. adults. In that survey, individuals were asked to rank the relative causes of violent death in their state over the past year.

The data were then compared to each state’s official death count. The results indicated that although suicide was more common than homicide in all 50 states, the majority of respondents did not identify it as such.

“The relative frequencies that respondents reported didn’t match up with the state’s data when we compared them to vital statistics,” Morgan said.

“The inconsistency between the true causes and what the public perceives to be frequent causes of death indicates a gap in knowledge and a place where additional education can be helpful.”

Researchers say education about the actual risks is critical. If people believe homicide is the top risk, for example, they might purchase a gun to protect themselves. And without an understanding of the high risk of suicide, people may be less inclined to store firearms safely.

Researchers believe education on firearm risks needs to extend to the media and entertainment industries. “By having mass media and other communication mechanisms enable further discussions of suicide, we, as a society, can have a more informed conversation about suicide prevention,” Morgan said.

The researchers said they are interested in learning more about how people form their perceptions of gun violence, in order to begin shifting those beliefs.

“We know that this is a mixture of mass and individual communication, but what really leads people to draw the conclusions that they do?” Morgan said.

“If people think that the rate of homicide is really high because that’s what is shown on the news and on fictional TV shows, then these are opportunities to start to portray a more realistic picture of what’s happening.”

Source: University of Washington

Suicide Far Outpaces Homicide in US, But Perception Is Just The Opposite

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Suicide Far Outpaces Homicide in US, But Perception Is Just The Opposite. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 13, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/10/31/suicide-far-outpaces-homicide-in-us-but-perception-is-just-the-opposite/139950.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 31 Oct 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Oct 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.