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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Nack

Reducing Access to Lethal Means: Lessening Suicide Risk

“Lethal means are objects like guns, medications, alcohol, opioids or other substances, ropes, cords, or sharp objects that can be used during a suicidal crisis.” ("FIREARM SUICIDE PREVENTION & LETHAL MEANS SAFETY," 2022). Some means of killing oneself are instant and there is no way to reverse the effects of the action. An example of this is using a firearm. Other ways such as by medication or drug overdose are not instant, and as such there is more that can be done to reverse the effects of the attempt and save the life of the individual. The logic behind this prevention strategy is that if a more lethal means of suicide, such as using a firearm, is not available, it is likely that a less lethal attempt will be made. That acute period of suicidality will pass, and statistically those people who survive will be less likely to die by suicide at a later time as 90% of attempters who survive an attempt will not die by suicide at a later time ("Suicide prevention: Reducing access to lethal means – SAVE," n.d.).


Guns are a high risk lethal means of suicide. The following is a list of safe ways to store guns as a means of reducing access in the case that one is suicidal:

  • Cable lock (gun lock): can be used to either make the individual have to remove the lock, giving them time to rethink their actions, or the key could even be given to someone else in the home.

  • Lockbox or gun case

  • Electronic lockbox: Only the person with the code can access the contents.

  • Biometric safes: unlock with fingerprint, eye scan, or voice recognition.

  • One could also give the firearm to someone who does not live in the home with the individual at risk ("FIREARM SUICIDE PREVENTION & LETHAL MEANS SAFETY," 2022)

While medications are necessary for many, they can still be a lethal means of suicide. While they are less likely to result in death than attempt by a firearm, they are the most common method for suicide attempts ("CALM: Counseling on access to lethal means," 2018) The following are ways to reduce access to them as a means of reducing suicide risk:

  • Keeping medications out of reach from children

  • Putting family or friends in charge of administering and storing one’s medications

  • Only have the current week’s worth of medications available, the rest are locked away

  • Any medications that have a higher overdose likelihood, such as opioids, can always be locked away

  • Have the pharmacy fill a shorter supply of medication so that there is less of it available at a time

  • Dispose of expired or unused medications ("FIREARM SUICIDE PREVENTION & LETHAL MEANS SAFETY," 2022)


The suicide prevention resource center offers a course for counseling on access to lethal means. While this is intended for counselors or professionals in the mental health field, it provides good information that is beneficial for anyone. They posit that a suicidal crisis can escalate in a short amount of time, and that prediction of a suicidal crisis can be difficult. As such, preemptive measures such as reducing access to lethal means can be quite effective ("CALM: Counseling on access to lethal means," 2018).


If you are interested in taking the free course, visit https://zerosuicidetraining.edc.org



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