The Intersection of PTSD Symptoms and Firearm Storage Practices Within a Suicide Prevention Framework: Findings From a U.S. Army National Guard Sample

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Soldiers in the U.S. Army National Guard are at elevated risk for suicide compared to soldiers in the other components. Most suicides by military service members, including members of the U.S. Army National Guard, are enacted with personal firearms. The unsafe storage of firearms is associated with increased risk for death by suicide. Therefore, efforts to elucidate modifiable factors associated with unsafe firearm storage have the potential to inform military suicide prevention efforts. PTSD hyperarousal symptoms are characterized in part by a heightened sense of being 'on guard' for potential dangers and might contribute to an increased likelihood of storing firearms unsafely. This study sought to examine if more severe PTSD hyperarousal symptoms are associated with greater unsafe firearm storage practices. Participants were 327 U.S. Army National Guard personnel (M [SD]age = 26.90 [7.45] years; 93.3% male; 77.8% White/Caucasian). Firearm storage practices were assessed via a structured questionnaire. PTSD symptoms (reexperiencing, avoidance, numbing, hyperarousal) were assessed via the PTSD Checklist-Military Version (PCL-M). Logistic regression analyses were utilized. Elevated PTSD hyperarousal symptoms were significantly associated with storing firearms loaded and/or in nonsecure locations, even after controlling for the effects of the other PTSD symptom clusters. Sensitivity analyses revealed that the pattern of findings remained consistent among participants with a deployment history and when controlling for the effects of agitation symptoms. Findings of this study suggest that U.S. Army National Guard personnel who experience elevated PTSD hyperarousal symptoms are more likely to store their firearms unsafely. Implications for military suicide prevention are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

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Psychological Services





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