Nearly one in five people under 21 who are at risk for suicide have guns in their homes, according to research presented Monday at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington.

“This study highlights the importance of parents understanding the risks of having guns in their homes,” said co-author Jeffrey A. Bridge of the Ohio State University. “Being at risk for suicide and having access to firearms is a volatile mix."

Of the 151 youth found to be at risk for suicide, about 17 percent reported guns in or around their home. Of those youth, only 15 percent -- or 4 youths -- reported access to both guns and bullets.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 to 8 percent of children and teens attempt suicide each year. Nearly half of youths who die by suicide use a firearm. Though cutting or stabbing oneself has been found to be the most common way people attempt to commit suicide, using a gun has been found to be the most effective.

The research presentation was based on data from a study published by the authors in the December 2012 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. That study found an instrument called the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) could successfully identify emergency department patients at a high risk for suicide. Nurses or physicians can administer the screening in under 2 minutes.

"While many youths who kill themselves have mental health disorders, up to 40 percent of youths who kill themselves have no known mental illness," Bridge said. "Therefore, it is important to screen all children and adolescents for suicide, regardless of the reason they are visiting the ED."

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