With depression on the rise, focus on gun safety in the home

Know what to look for if your young child or teen is experiencing mental health issues.

The spread of COVID-19 has slowed while restrictions are one by one receding into memory. Whatever the “new normal” looks like, it doesn’t mean there won’t be lingering effects of the pandemic. Now more than ever, it’s important to talk your kids about depression and focus on gun safety in the home.

The effect of unprecedented lockdowns, the isolation of not getting together with family and friends, and fear of the virus have taken a toll on mental health across the globe. With so many people struggling, it can be hard to know if your child is just having a bad day or is showing signs of depression.

“The stress, fear, grief, isolation and uncertainty created by COVID-19 pandemic can wear anyone down, but many children and teens have had an especially tough time coping emotionally,” said Kerry Caperell, M.D., a pediatric emergency medicine physician with Norton Children’s Emergency Medicine, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.

There is a gun in nearly one-third of American homes. Nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded, unlocked gun, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Emergency psychiatric services

For children and teens with a psychiatric emergency or crisis, call 911 or visit the closest emergency room.

At Norton Children’s emergency departments, children and teens are assessed and evaluated by a behavioral and mental health specialist.

Find a location

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among children and young adults ages 10 to 24 in Kentucky and the U.S. Depressed teens are at risk for suicide. Younger children are at greater risk because high levels of stress and isolation can affect their brain development. Having an unsecured gun in the house presents a life-threatening risk that your family can avoid.

Helping kids with depression and anxiety

Children thrive when your family and friends are safe and stable. COVID-19 made these goals more difficult for many families to accomplish. So, as things seem to be getting back to normal, it’s important to ask how your children are feeling.

It’s also important to know what to look for if your young child or teen is experiencing mental health issues. Some signs of depression include:

  • Issues with memory or concentration
  • Loss of interest in schoolwork or activities in which they usually participated
  • Not enjoying time with family or friends
  • Changes in weight (loss of appetite or weight gain)
  • Persistent sadness or irritability
  • Sluggishness due to changes in sleep patterns
  • Talk of suicide

As a parent, be ready to listen and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to show children how much you love them and that you’re ready to help them get through the troubling issues.

Gun safety at home

Each year, thousands of children are killed or injured due to a gun accident in the home. While the safest thing for your family is not to keep a gun in the house, the best way to avoid firearm-related accidents is to talk your children about the risks involved when keeping guns in the home.

Whether toddlers or teens, children are naturally curious about guns. If a gun is present in the home, your child needs to know the dangers. Let them know that every possible safety measure is taken to prevent accidents.

Often children and teens do not realize that handling a gun just once can lead to tragedy. It’s important to take steps for responsible and safe storage.

Tips for safe gun storage

  • Store ammunition in a separate locked location, out of reach and sight of children.
  • Keep gun and ammunition safe keys and combinations hidden.
  • When a gun is not being stored, it should be on your person and in your immediate control at all times.
  • If a visitor has a gun in your home, provide them with a space to lock it up.
  • Dispose of guns you don’t need in a safe way. Consult with law enforcement in your community on how to do so.
  • Store guns in a locked location, unloaded, out of reach and sight of children.