Children who survive a suicide attempt are at greater risk of later dying by suicide. Firearm screening and provision of lethal means restriction counseling may improve the safety of this high-risk cohort. Our objective was to determine firearm screening rates among children hospitalized after suicide attempts. We also assessed the effects of templating firearm screening questions into the psychiatric consultation note.
This retrospective pre- and postintervention study identified children <19 years old admitted after a suicide attempt from January 1, 2016 to March 1, 2020. In mid-2017, the psychiatry consult note incorporated a previously available optional firearm screening tool as an embedded field (intervention). The intervention effect on proportion of children at high risk screened for firearm access was assessed by interrupted time series analysis.
Of 26 088 total admissions, 357 met inclusion criteria. The majority were teenagers (15 years old, interquartile range 14 to 16), 275 were female (77%), and 167 were White (47%). Overall, 286 (80%) of patients had firearm access screening documentation. Of the 71 (20%) without screening, 21 (30%) were discharged from the hospital; 50 (70%) were transferred to psychiatric facilities. There was no significant difference in screening rates after the intervention (Intervention shift P = .74, slope P = .85).
Many children were not screened for firearm access after a suicide attempt requiring hospitalization despite the screening tool integration. Multidisciplinary quality improvement efforts are needed to ensure that this critical risk reduction intervention is implemented for all patients after a suicide attempt.