With an average of 1,000 people taking their own lives each year in Colorado, doctors are, at times, on the front lines of mental health issues affecting their patients.
“We know in Colorado, 76 percent of our gun deaths are suicides,” said Dr. Emmy Betz, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Whether or not doctors should ask patients if they have gun is a different question -- and according to a new study from CU’s medical school, some people don't like the idea.
“There’s been a lot of discussion and debate over the role of healthcare providers in reducing gun violence and gun deaths – and so we wanted to look at what does the general public think about when it’s appropriate for doctors to talk about guns and patients,” Dr. Betz said.
The survey asked 4,000 people how they felt if a doctor were to ask them questions about four subjects: alcohol, tobacco, seat belt use and access to guns.
While the respondents overwhelmingly said they supported doctors asking patients about their alcohol and tobacco use, it was less so with seat belts – about 80 percent -- and even lower when it came guns – 66 percent.
Dr. Betz said the gun question isn’t about taking away people’s guns, but preventing injuries or deaths for those who may have mental health issues.
“The next step, I think, is to really work together in collaborations with gun owners and firearm organizations, to understand that how we, as healthcare providers, can talk about these subjects in ways that are acceptable and hopefully help prevent injuries,” she said.
Researchers say future studies will take a closer at why people feel the way they do about the gun question. The current study was conducted in conjunction with Harvard and Northeastern Universities.