Few topics stir more controvery in this country than guns. Mass shootings and urban gun violence inflame public passions. Gun control measures divide our political leaders, and elections often hinge on candidates' views of guns.
I struggle with issues related to firearms every day, but in a different way. To me, it's not about politics or elections. It's part of my daily job. As a mental health provider, I have to ask all my patients about guns.
I spend many of my days and nights caring for patients with psychiatric crises in emergency departments. We address a variety of clinical problems, from hallucinations to delusions to addiction. Suicidality is one of the more common ones. Too often, patients want to hurt themselves or have already tried to do so.
So why do I ask about guns?
Because when I think about how patients might harm themselves, guns frighten me the most. As a resident physician in psychiatry, I see some pretty terrible things. Suicidal patients talk about hanging themselves, overdosing, throwing themselves into traffic, and a host of other awful ways to end their lives.