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Blocking Access to Suicide 'Hot Spots' Lowers Death Toll

Blocking Access to Suicide ‘Hot Spots’ Lowers Death Toll

A new study has found that blocking access to suicide hotspots, such as high bridges and cliffs, has led to a reduction in deaths at these locations by more than 90 percent.

The large meta-analysis shows that a variety of other suicide prevention measures currently being used at known hotspots around the world, such as encouraging help-seeking (placing signs and crisis telephones in the area) and increasing the likelihood of intervention by a third party (increasing video surveillance and suicide patrols) also appear to significantly lower the number of deaths at these sites.

“Although suicide methods at high-risk locations are not the most common ways for people to take their own lives and may only have a small impact on overall suicide rates, suicide attempts at these sites are often fatal and attract high profile media attention which can lead to copycat acts,” says lead author Professor Jane Pirkis from the University of Melbourne in Australia.

“These methods of suicide also have a distressing impact on the mental well-being of witnesses and people who live or work near these locations.”

The researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of all studies examining the effectiveness of three interventions (restricting access to the means, encouraging help-seeking, and increasing the likelihood of intervention by third party) aimed at reducing suicide attempts at high-risk locations up to 2015. They measured the success of each intervention in isolation and in combination with other interventions.

“These key interventions have the potential to complement each other and buy time to allow an individual to reconsider their actions and allow others the opportunity to intervene,” says Pirkis.

Analysis of data from 18 studies comparing the number of completed suicides at various hotspots before and after the interventions were introduced, showed that the interventions significantly lowered the number of suicides at these sites.

Suicide deaths dropped from an average of 5.8 per year (863 suicides over 150 study years) before the interventions were introduced to an average of 2.4 per year afterwards (211 suicides over 88 study years).

Interventions to restrict access resulted in 91 percent fewer suicides per year when looked at in combination with other interventions, and a 93 percent reduction in the number of deaths per year when used in isolation.

Interventions designed to encourage help-seeking reduced the annual number of suicides by over half (51 percent) when used alongside other interventions, and by 61 percent when used on their own. In combination with other approaches, interventions to increase the likelihood of help from a third party led to 47 percent fewer suicides.

“Studies that have looked at substitution suggest that although restricting access at one site may shift some of the problem to other locations, there is still a significant overall reduction in deaths by the same method,” says Pirkis.

The findings are published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

Source: The Lancet

Bridge with restricted access photo by shutterstock.

Blocking Access to Suicide ‘Hot Spots’ Lowers Death Toll

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Blocking Access to Suicide ‘Hot Spots’ Lowers Death Toll. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 27 Sep 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.