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2000 Oregon Youth Suicide Prevention REDUCE ACCESS TO LETHAL MEANS
The Oregon Plan for Youth Suicide Prevention
Resources for Strategy #2
Energize Oregonians to restrict youth access to means of suicide by educating them about such vital issues as:
  • the link between lethal means in the home and completed suicide
  • safe firearm storage (locked and stored separately from ammunition)
  • the importance of removing lethal means (firearms, poisons, medications, alcohol, etc.) from homes with a youth at high risk of suicidal behavior
All Oregonians, particularly parents/guardians, firearm owners, community gatekeepers (Strategy 7), young people - especially those aged 10 to 24, behavioral health care providers, teachers, school administrators, law enforcement, clergy, juvenile justice workers, physicians, public health practitioners, and legislators.
Removing or restricting access to lethal means of self harm is an effective suicide prevention strategy that can decrease suicide.
Increased public awareness of the role of firearms in youth suicides and knowledge about safe firearm storage can save young lives. Here are some pertinent facts: Firearms are used in fully two-thirds of youth suicides in Oregon.10 During the last three and one-half decades, the rate of suicide by firearm increased 4.3 times faster than did the rate of suicide by other methods. An estimated 16% of Oregon households with children under 18 have firearms that are loaded and unlocked.11 During 1994-1997, 71% of firearm suicides among Oregon youth aged 10 to 24 occurred at home. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that parents of depressed or suicidal adolescents remove firearms and ammunition from the home.12

Education on the restriction of access to lethal means is seen as one of the most promising and economical strategies for preventing youth suicide.13 Removing or restricting access is an effective suicide prevention strategy that can decrease suicide.14, 15 Among parents whose children visited an emergency department for a mental health assessment or treatment, those who received injury prevention education from hospital staff are significantly more likely to limit access to lethal means of self-harm than are families who did not receive such education.13

The safety of Oregon's young people is a serious concern both of gun owners and of those who do not own guns. Messages on restricting access to means of suicide should be crafted collaboratively by both groups to achieve community-wide support. Public education campaigns aimed at preventing youth suicide should incorporate messages on reducing access to lethal means of self harm as well (see Strategy 1).


  • Select and/or create media to educate the public about the role of firearms in youth suicide, safe storage,and firearm disposal.
  • Conduct a public information campaign(s) designed to reduce the accessibility of lethal means of self harm (including firearms) in the home.
  • Solicit help from community gun owners and sellers to support campaigns for safe storage.
  • Conduct public forums for parents,guardians,and media on strategies for securing weapons (gun boxes, trigger locks, etc.) and medications, particularly prescription drugs and those stored in large quantities.
  • Train professionals and other adults who provide services to youth at risk for suicide about firearm access issues.
  • Increase the proportion of primary care and other health care providers who routinely assess the presence of lethal means (including firearms, drugs, and poisons) in the home and educate patients about actions to reduce risks.
  • Conduct a local community assessment to determine the extent to which firearms and other lethal means are stored safely in homes with children and adolescents.

10 Center for Health Statistics. Oregon Vital Statistics Annual Report, 1997. Health Services, Oregon Department of Human Services. Portland, Oregon. 2000.
11 Center for Health Statistics. Weapons, Schools, and Kids; What is the Risk? regon Health Trends, Number 54. Health Services. Oregon Department of Human Resources. 1999. Portland, Oregon.
12 American Academy of Pediatrics.
13 Kruesi M, Grossman J, Pennington,J ,et al. Suicide and violence prevention: parent education in the emergency department. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1999;38:250-256.
14 Berman A, Jobes D. Adolescent Suicide Assessment and Intervention. American Psychological Association. 1991. Washington, DC.
15 Sloan J, Rivara F, Reay D, et al. Firearm regulations and rates of suicide-A comparison of two metropolitan areas. New England Journal of Medicine. 1990; 322:369-373.
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