Lethal Means

Lethal Means is defined as an instrument or object utilized to carry out a self-destructive act (i.e., firearm, poison, medication, rope, chemicals and/or other hazardous materials).

Suicide is often not the result of a calculated plan, but an impulsive act of desperation that can be facilitated by the ready availability of lethal means and/or the influence of alcohol. A study of individuals who made nearly lethal suicide attempts found that for 2/3 of attempters, less than an hour elapsed between the decision to end their life and the actual attempt. For one of four, only five minutes elapsed. Teens are particularly at risk*.

For some suicide attempters, the impulse is short-lived and what the lethal means chosen during that impulse may determine life or death. Various studies followed survivors of suicide attempts over 10 to 20 years and found that 90% or more of survivors did not go on to die by suicide**.

*Harvard Injury Control Research Center and the American Association of Suicidology. (June 2003). A Public Health Approach to Preventing Suicide.

**Harvard School of Public Health. (August 2005). Exploring Differences in Suicide Rates in the Northeast.