Erica Saum, LMSW
Suicide Prevention Program Lead
When it comes to preventing suicide, many people focus on ‘why’—why does this individual want to kill themselves? However, the Harvard School of Public Health study known as “Means Matter” (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/) shows us that it is most important to ask ‘how’? How do they plan to kill themselves and what means can they access?
When working to increase someone’s safety during the heightened period of suicidal thoughts, it is important to ask about access to lethal means. Although someone’s thoughts of suicide may take place over time, we know that many suicide attempts occur with little planning during a short-term crisis. When we focus on the ‘how’ someone would kill themselves, we can determine how to increase their safety during a heightened crisis should they decide to act upon their thoughts.
Reducing someone’s access to lethal means can look different for each person, depending on their circumstance. What remains constant is the objective to limit someone’s immediate access to lethal means during a crisis. If we can increase the time and distance between someone deciding to act on their thoughts, and their ability to obtain their means, we can potentially save a life.
How do we do this? Establishing a safer environment and safety plan prior to the crisis is key. A safety plan is the equivalent to a fire drill—you need to know the steps to keep yourself safe when emotionally on fire in the same way that you need to know how to locate the exit during a physical fire.
To learn more about the importance of reducing access to lethal means, we encourage you to participate in a free online training, Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM). This training is designed to help professionals reduce access to lethal means for people at risk of suicide. To access the CALM training go to: https://zerosuicidetraining.edc.org/enrol/index.php?id=20
Together we WILL prevent suicide!