From the Journals

COVID-19: Experts call for ‘urgent’ global action to prevent suicide


Concerning spike in gun sales

Eric Fleegler, MD, MPH, and colleagues from Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, agreed.

“The time to act is now. Both population and individual approaches are needed to reduce the risk for suicide in the coming months,” they wrote in a commentary published online April 22 in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Fleegler and colleagues are particularly concerned about a potential increase in gun-related suicides, as gun sales in the United States have “skyrocketed” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, more than 2.5 million firearms were sold, including 1.5 million handguns. That’s an 85% increase in gun sales compared with March 2019 and the highest firearm sales ever recorded in the United States, they reported.

In addition, research has shown that individuals who buy handguns have a 22-fold higher rate of firearm-related suicide within the first year vs. those who don’t purchase a handgun.

“In the best of times, increased gun ownership is associated with a heightened risk for firearm-related suicide. These are not the best of times,” the authors wrote.

Dr. Fleegler and colleagues said it’s also important to realize that firearm-related suicides were mounting well before COVID-19 hit. From 2006 to 2018, firearm-related suicide rates increased by more than 25%, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. In 2018 alone, there were 24,432 firearm-related suicides in the United States.

“The United States should take policy and clinical action to avoid a potential epidemic of firearm-related suicide in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” they concluded.

This research had no specific funding. Dr. Gunnell and Dr. Fleegler disclosed no relevant financial relationships .

A version of this article originally appeared on


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