Session: Are Social Workers Doing Enough to Prevent Gun Violence? (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

123 Are Social Workers Doing Enough to Prevent Gun Violence?

Friday, January 12, 2018: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Independence BR F (ML 4) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Social Work Practice
Patricia Logan-Greene, PhD, University at Buffalo, Mickey Sperlich, PhD, University at Buffalo, Sean Joe, PhD, LMSW, Washington University in Saint Louis, Mark Kaplan, Dr.P.H., UCLA, Michael Kral, PhD, Wayne State University and Karen Slovak, PhD, Malone University
More than 30,000 people die annually in the United States from gun violence. About two-thirds of these deaths are by suicide; firearms are the most common means of completed suicide, accounting for approximately 50% of all suicides annually. Most public health experts deem gun violence a public health crisis, however research and policy has been hampered by anti-gun-regulation forces, especially the NRA, and a long-standing federal ban on funding gun violence research from the Dickey Amendment. Some professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, have responded to this crisis by issuing comprehensive policy statements and practice guidelines for frontline workers, however there is little guidance for social workers either from the research literature or from national organizations such as the NASW.

A recent multidisciplinary review of clinician attitudes and practice behaviors (Roszko et al., 2016) found only two articles surveying social workers. These indicated that the majority of the social workers surveyed did not assess for firearm ownership or counseling on firearm safety on a routine basis, even in suicide lethality assessments. They suggested that barriers included lack of training on risks, lack of risk awareness, discomfort with the topic, and lack of time. In a national sample of social workers, less than 25% reported having received any such training; furthermore, a majority reported that they experienced their training as inadequate. A systematic review found that there has been very little evidence-based knowledge produced by the field since 1980 (Joe & Niedermeier, 2008) and concluded that this is a “neglected social work research agenda.”

With inadequacy of training and evidence-based guidance, it is unclear how many social workers are prepared to assess and respond to situations in which a suicidal client has access to a firearm, or in which a client may be at-risk of other gun violence. More information is needed in order to contextualize and understand barriers to assessing for gun safety.

This roundtable will bring together prominent researchers on gun violence to address the role social workers can play in preventing firearm injury. The first panelist will discuss the "hidden epidemic of firearm suicide," arguing that firearm suicide is an underappreciated public health problem. Another panelist will discuss the relationships between gun ownership, gun restriction, and suicide. A third panelist will present research on Counseling on Access to Lethal Means training on Adolescent Clinicians and Geriatric Case Managers, an intervention designed to overcome perceived barriers in discussing firearm and other lethal weapons access with clients. A fourth panelist will discuss innovations in policy, practice, and research related to state-level suicide prevention training and lethal means counseling campaigns. A fifth panelist will review research on the unique risk guns pose to women experiencing domestic violence. Finally, a sixth panelist will present research describing how to prevent gun injury among children and adolescents.

Social workers are especially well-positioned to address gun violence, given their engagement with the most vulnerable populations. This roundtable will provide a call to action to leverage our potential to address this urgent problem.

See more of: Roundtables