HealthMental Health


Most children injured by firearms don't get timely mental health care

More than 60% of children who are injured by guns don't seek mental health care within six months, a study finds.
Child meeting with mental health professional.
Posted at 3:48 PM, Jun 06, 2023

Using statistics from Medicaid, researchers with the University of Chicago concluded that 63% of children injured by firearms in 2020 did not get timely mental health services. 

The study published in the journal Pediatrics this week indicated that over 11,000 children were injured by firearms in 2020. The researchers said these children are subject to adverse mental health outcomes. The study indicated that children should be checked for mental health within six months of the incident.

"In our study, we found that while too many children did not receive mental health care follow-up, children with a new mental health diagnosis identified during the firearm injury encounter had over twice the odds of timely connection to outpatient mental health care," said lead author Dr. Jennifer Hoffmann. 

The researchers said these children are subject to trauma-related disorders and substance use and disruptive disorders. They added instances of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and suicidal ideation/self-injury nearly doubled among children injured by firearms.

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Hoffmann’s study followed 2,613 children who had a firearm injury between 2010-18. Her research indicated that children with prior mental health conditions were more likely to seek help sooner. 

"For children without prior mental health service use, greater efforts are needed to connect them to mental health providers," said Hoffmann. "To improve outcomes, it is important to prioritize early detection of mental health needs, equitable access to mental health care and timeliness of care."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 9.4% of children ages 3-17 have ADHD, 9.4% have anxiety, 8.9% have behavior problems and 4.4% have depression.