What Measures Can Reduce Suicides At Public Hotspots?

Professor Jane Pirkis PhD Centre for Mental Health Melbourne School of Population and Global Health University of Melbourne, AustraliaMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Professor Jane Pirkis PhD
Centre for Mental Health
Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
University of Melbourne, Australia

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Professor Pirkis:  Public sites that gain a reputation as places where people might go to seek to end their lives are a particular problem in suicide prevention.  Any suicide is tragic, but suicides at these sites have an extra level of complexity because they can lead to copycat acts and can have a major impact on people who work at or live near these sites, or visit them for other reasons.  Our meta-analysis, which pooled data from 18 individual studies from around the world,  found that three interventions work really well in reducing suicides at these sites.

  • Restricting access to means (e.g., installing barriers) can reduce suicides at these sites by 90% or more, and
  • encouraging help-seeking (e.g., installing phones that link directly to crisis services) and
  • increasing the likelihood of someone intervening (e.g., installing CCTV cameras, training staff who work at these sites) can each reduce them by around 50%, or more in some cases.  The interventions seem to work well together and complement each other too.  

Medical Research:What should communities take away from your report?

Professor Pirkis:   I think that communities that are concerned about particular sites should certainly consider putting in place one or more of the above interventions.  Restricting access to means is the most effective, but this may not always be possible.  There is sometimes opposition to installing barriers, for example, partly because it is thought that they will mar the beauty of given sites, and partly because they are expensive.  The studies we looked at provided numerous examples where barriers had been carefully constructed to make sure that they were sympathetic to their surroundings, and although their initial cost was not insignificant, the ongoing cost of maintaining them was negligible.  In instances where barriers are just not an option, though, encouraging help-seeking and increasing the likelihood of third party intervention should definitely be considered.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Professor Pirkis: Further work to tease out the independent effects of each of these interventions would be helpful, particularly encouraging help-seeking and increasing the likelihood of intervention by a third party.  We identified two other interventions that we could not include in our meta-analysis because they were the subject of only one study each.

The first of these was encouraging responsible media reporting of suicide at these sites, in order to reduce the likelihood of copycat acts.

The second was installing special blue lights at certain dimly-lit and risky sites; these lights are thought to have a calming effect.  The individual studies of these two interventions suggest that they both show promise, but it would be good to investigate this further.


Interventions to reduce suicides at suicide hotspots: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Pirkis, Jane et al.

The Lancet Psychiatry Published Online: 22 September 2015

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(15)00266-7

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Professor Jane Pirkis PhD (2015). What Measures Can Reduce Suicides At Public Hotspots?

Last Updated on September 24, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD