I’ve been writing about the Safety Plan as a brief suicide intervention, Tear up that no-harm/no-suicide contract, and we are returning to the final step, Reducing the Potential for Use of Lethal Means, to review some practical steps, especially for firearm use.
Remember that I mentioned in my last post that means restriction is not fool proof or guaranteed, but it is a useful intervention step, especially in the short term. Once people select a method to end their life, they are unlikely to switch to another method. Please note I did not say they will not switch – I said they are unlikely to switch.
Firearms are used in half of completed suicides. If the person considering suicide is planning to use a firearm to complete their suicide, how can we provide means restriction? See if there is someone who can temporarily store any firearms for that individual. Sometimes, local law enforcement can assist with this. If the individual owns a firearm safe, consider placing the firearms in the safe and having them give you the key or change the combination. Another option, which requires some knowledge of firearm mechanics, is to remove the firing pin.
If medications are the selected method, consider having a family member or friend control the medications, ensuring the individual receives their daily dose but restricting access to large amounts of the medication. Also consider working with the individual to speak to their prescribing physician about changing the medication (especially opioids and benzodiazepines) to a less lethal option.
The key to means restriction is determining the method the individual is planning on using, and restricting that access. You cannot eliminate access to lethal means but you can restrict access to lethal means. For more information, see the Means Matter website.