Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Firearm Suicides on The Rise


To stem the increase in self-inflicted gun deaths, we must work toward early and accurate diagnosis of mental illness, as well as advocate for better firearm laws.

Each year, over 700,000 people worldwide die by suicide, and for each person who dies by suicide many more people attempt suicide. In the U.S., suicide rates have been increasing throughout the 21st century, with the most recent CDC data showing that the past year’s increase was the single largest annual suicide rate increase in history, with rates now higher than they have ever been. The majority of these suicides are by firearm, a problem compounded by the dramatic increase in firearm ownership and access in the U.S. since 2020. 


In fact, although suicide rates increased more dramatically than ever over the past three years, suicides by every other method decreased while firearm suicides increased, driving this public health crisis. These suicides, specifically firearm suicides, have increased the most in communities of color. In the United States, Black youth have the fastest increasing rate of suicide compared to youth from other racial and ethnic backgrounds. In 2021, up to 20% of Black high school students reported that they had seriously considered suicide. At even greater risk are Black LGBTQIA+ youth, up to 20% of whom report having attempted suicide in the past year.[3] When these vulnerable teenagers have access to a firearm, those attempts go from mostly survivable to generally fatal. 


Suicide, especially youth suicide, is a public health crisis, and prevention requires a multifaceted and multisector approach. Prevention requires early and accurate diagnosis of mental illness, reduction of social stigma around mental illness, access to mental healthcare, and control of risk factors including lethal means safety including using tools such as Extreme Risk Protection Orders. 


None of these is a simple task, and each requires widespread awareness and education and implementation of programs that are culturally grounded and age-appropriate and work to create safe spaces for minoritized youth.  


For more information, please read Still Ringing the Alarm by our colleagues in the Center for Gun Violence Solutions. 









This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.