How can you keep someone who’s thinking about suicide from going through with it? One way is to restrict easy access to methods of suicide, a new international review suggests.
Researchers found that the number of suicides decreased in countries that reduced the number of pills sold at one time for drugs that could potentially be used in suicide attempts.
Another effective measure is the installation of physical barriers at known suicide locations, such as high bridges, the investigators found.
The researchers said these measures are helpful because they might thwart impulsive suicide attempts.
There is no single best way to prevent suicide, according to one of the study authors, Joseph Zohar, a professor of psychiatry at Tel Aviv University in Israel.
“However, implementation of the evidence-supported methods described in this study, including public and physician education and awareness together with appropriate legislation, has the potential to change public health strategies in suicide prevention plans,” Zohar explained.
“With these measures, we can significantly reduce the number of deaths due to suicide,” Zohar said in a news release from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
Medical treatments, such as lithium and clozapine, are effective in some groups of people. And antidepressants have been shown to reduce suicides in people older than 75, the study authors said.
Those same antidepressants have to be used with caution in children and teens, however. In younger people, serotonin medications may increase suicidal thoughts, although there isn’t any evidence that actual suicides increase, the researchers noted. And they pointed out that untreated depression has risks, too.
Other effective suicide prevention measures include “Gatekeeper Training.” This is special training for primary care doctors — as well as professionals at schools and the workplace — to recognize at-risk behavior. This training can be useful if combined with other methods of suicide prevention. Follow-up after a suicide attempt is very important, the researchers said.
The new research review was published June 9 in The Lancet Psychiatry. The findings were based on 1,800 studies published between 2005 and 2015.
More than 800,000 suicides occur every year worldwide. For every suicide death, there are about 30 attempts. Suicide causes more deaths than war and murder combined, the researchers noted. And among people aged 15 to 29, suicide is the second-leading cause of death.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on suicide prevention.