Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

This review discusses the limitation of access to suicide methods as a way to prevent suicide, an approach which forms a major component of many national suicide prevention strategies. An important distinction is made between efforts that attempt to limit physical access to suicide methods and those that attempt to reduce the cognitive availability of suicide. Physical imitations will be reviewed with reference to restricting access to domestic gas, catalytic converters, firearms, pesticides, jumping, paracetamol and methods used in prisons. Impacts of cognitive availability will be discussed mainly with regard to the media in terms of providing access to technical information and sensational or inaccurate portrayals of suicide. Drawing on psychological models of suicidal ideation and behaviour, this review explores how processes leading to suicidal behaviour and issues around method choice may relate to the effectiveness of limiting access to methods. Potential problems surrounding method limitations are explored, in particular the factors contributing to substitution, the risk that alternative methods of suicide may be used if one is restricted. It is concluded that in appropriate contexts, where substitution is less likely to occur, and in conjunction with psychosocial prevention efforts, limitation of both physical and cognitive access to suicide can be an effective suicide prevention strategy.

Original publication




Journal article


Soc Sci Med

Publication Date





1626 - 1632


Cognition, Humans, Models, Psychological, Suicide, Suicide, Attempted