By Paul Purcell
Restricting suicidal people's access to areas where they can end their own lives has prevented the number of self-inflicted deaths by more than 90 percent.
Analysis of suicide hotspots across New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Hong Kong, Canada, Switzerland and England published today by The Lancet Psychiatry found a variety of prevention methods are actively stopping people from killing themselves.
The three most common approaches - restricting access to prevalent areas, signage and crisis phones to encourage health-seeking, and increased surveillance via CCTV and suicide patrols - have significantly lowered the number of deaths.
Preventing people from killing themselves using barriers and safety nets was particularly effective, with around 90 percent less suicides at locations that used them.
Lead author and Melbourne University professor Jane Pirkis said they did a systematic review and analysis of all previous studies examining the effectiveness of 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," she said.
Combining the three methods, the study found suicides dropped from an average 5.8 suicides a year at the 18 hotspots to 2.4 deaths following the implementation of safety interventions.
"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."
However, despite its success, prevention at suicide hotspots may shift the problem to other locations, she said.
* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline's 24-hour telephone counselling service on 0800 543 354, or the Samaritans on 0800 726 666.