The Grapevine

Suicide Prevention: Restricting Access To Common 'Hotspots' Cuts Death Rates By 90%

on the edge
Installing barriers and increasing surveillance in common suicide "hot spots" can help reduce death tolls. kiera.chan CC BY-ND 2.0

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the number one leading cause of death for 15- to 29-year-olds. Often, we are unaware that others are even contemplating suicide until it’s too late, but a recent study suggests the simple practice of limiting restriction to common suicide “hotspots” can cut deaths at such sites by up to 90 percent.

In the study, published in the online journal The Lancet Psychiatry, a team of investigators conducted a review of 23 articles representing 18 studies on suicide prevention and determined that limiting or blocking access to suicide hotspots is one of the most effective ways to help reduce rates of suicide at certain repeat locations. The data revealed deaths fell from an average of 5.8 suicides per year to 2.4 when these actions were taken at certain high-risk locations.

According to the press release, ways to restrict access to these locations includes installing barriers of safety nets. Other effective ways of preventing suicide, as explained in the report, included encouraging help-seeking at suicide hotspots by installing telephones that link to suicide help lines, and increasing the chances of interventions by installing CCTV or “suicide patrols” at these locations. According to lead researcher, Dr. Jane Perkins from the University of Melbourne in Australia, these practices would help to "buy time to allow an individual to reconsider their actions and allow others the opportunity to intervene," Reuters reported.

Some of the world’s most notorious suicide sites include the London subway system, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. For example, since 1937, there have been more than 1,700 suicides at the Golden Gate Bridge, but this is only taking into account the bodies that have been retrieved. Many times strong currents cause bodies to be swept out to sea for many weeks before they are ever (if ever) retrieved.  

Of course, these techniques only work for those who attempt suicide in public locations. For those who have more private suicide attempts, identifying the warning signs of suicide contemplation before an actual attempt is key to saving a life. According to SAVE, a suicide awareness organization, some of the most common signs of suicide include talking about wanting to die and having a preoccupation with death, talking about feeling hopeless or not having a reason to live, and increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.

However, according to Alan Ross, the executive director of The Samaritans of New York, the only community-based organization in New York City solely devoted to suicide prevention, the best way to help someone who is thinking about taking their life is to just shut up and listen to them.

“We’re dealing with everything from someone having a bad day, a broken heart, emotional problems, mental illness, trauma, substance abuse, victim issues, neglect, and abandonment,” Ross told Medical Daily. “You’ve got to learn to shut up and listen.”

Source: Pirkis J, Too LS, Spittal MJ, et al. Interventions to reduce suicides at suicide hotspots: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry. 2015.

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