Means Restriction As A Suicide Prevention Strategy

Lessons learned and future directions

Authored by: Mark Sinyor , Ayal Schaffer , Amy H. Cheung

Routledge International Handbook of Clinical Suicide Research

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415530125
eBook ISBN: 9780203795583
Adobe ISBN: 9781134459292


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It has become widely accepted that restricting access to the means of suicide not only prevents suicide by that means but can prevent suicide deaths entirely (Cantor & Baume, 1998; Daigle, 2005; Mann et al., 2005; Yip et al., 2012). Commonly held rationales for this assertion are: (1) that people often express a preference for a specific method of suicide; (2) that suicidal crises may often be fleeting; and (3) that suicidal behaviours are frequently impulsive (Daigle, 2005; Hawton, 2007). It follows therefore that when immediately or easily available methods of suicide are removed, people will not invariably seek out other methods. In certain instances, this is almost certainly true; however, important counter-examples can also be seen. Researchers and policymakers must be mindful of this complexity as they develop comprehensive suicide prevention programs. In this chapter, we will use two of the research studies we have conducted to illustrate the relative merits and limitations of means restriction as a suicide prevention strategy. We will argue that restricting access to the means of suicide is an important consideration for any large program targeting suicide. However, given that means restriction is a downstream intervention that does not address the fundamental antecedents of suicide, we will also argue for the importance of not overstating the power of means restriction for suicide prevention especially where more nuanced and/or targeted approaches may be called for.

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