Lethal Means Restriction: Historical, International, and Professional Considerations

  • Bruce Bongar
  • Dana Lockwood
  • Danielle Spangler
  • Whitney Cowell


Over 800,000 completed suicides occur globally each year. Impulsivity and preference for one lethal method over another often characterize suicide attempts. Politics, cultural acceptability, and economic factors of a given region play an important role in an individual’s lethal means selection. Obtaining information on a given patient’s likelihood to use a particular means can provide a vital advantage to a clinician’s risk assessment and safety planning efforts. Importantly, research has shown that lethal means preferences vary around the world. Although some methods have been used throughout the history of suicidal behaviour, new methods continue to emerge and levels of frequency for specific means vary globally. Specifically, methods gaining in popularity include self-poisoning and self-immolation. The ever-changing nature of lethal means frequencies compiled with the efficacy of informed safety planning suggests the need for continued research into lethal means restriction so that professionals can adequately assess and intervene during behavioural emergencies. This chapter will provide the clinician with an overview on current lethal means restriction data to better-inform risk assessment procedures for patients from diverse backgrounds. Further, current limitations in lethal means research as well as future directions will be discussed.


Lethal means restriction Method substitution hypothesis Suicide prevention Psychological resources Method substitution hypothesis Firearms 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce Bongar
    • 1
  • Dana Lockwood
    • 1
  • Danielle Spangler
    • 1
  • Whitney Cowell
    • 1
  1. 1.Palo Alto UniversityPalo AltoUSA

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