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Lethal Means Safety & Suicide Prevention

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What is Lethal Means Safety?

Lethal means are objects (e.g., medications, firearms, sharp instruments) that can be used to inflict self-directed violence. Lethal Means Safety (LMS) is an intentional, voluntary practice to reduce one’s suicide risk by limiting access to those lethal means.

Promoting LMS is an evidence based component of a comprehensive suicide prevention strategy.

  • Priority Goal 1 of REDUCING MILITARY AND VETERAN SUICIDE: ADVANCING A COMPREHENSIVE, CROSS-SECTOR, EVIDENCE-INFORMED PUBLIC HEALTH STRATEGY focuses on ensuring time and space between a person and crisis and their access to lethal means, including firearms and medications.
  • Goal 6 of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 2018-2028 National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide is a strategic direction promoting efforts to reduce access to lethal means.
  • Recommendation 18 of the VA/Department of Defense Clinical Practice Guideline for the Assessment and Management of Patients at Risk for Suicide is reducing access to lethal means to decrease suicide risk at the population level.
  • Recommendation 8 of the President's Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) is to increase implementation of programs focused on lethal means safety.

Why recommend Lethal Means Safety?

Individuals who reduce their access to lethal means during times of heightened risk are reducing their risk of dying by suicide. Review the facts on the LMS Evidence page.

Why is Lethal Means Important?
  Why is lethal means safety important? Increasing the time and distance between someone with suicidal intent and lethal means can reduce suicide risk.   

Who should practice Lethal Means Safety?

Providers are encouraged to discuss LMS with any patient they believe would benefit from this risk mitigation strategy, and certainly with Veterans who are at Intermediate or High, Acute or Chronic suicide risk based on Therapeutic Risk Management Risk Stratification.

How should providers support patients in making decisions about LMS?

Lethal Means Safety Counseling (LMSC) is a patient-centered approach to promoting safety behaviors by aligning evidence-based recommendations with patients’ preferences and values. Learn more on the LMS Counseling page.

  Visit the VA REACH Lethal Means Safety page  

Hear more about LMS

 MIRECC Podcasts logo   Dr. Michael Anestis  
Why We Need to Talk Firearm Safety When We talk about Suicide Prevention with Dr. Michael Anestis (February 2019).
Link to podcast
    Dr. Joe Simonetti

Promoting Lethal Means Safety to Prevent Veteran Suicide with Joe Simonetti, MD (January 2018)
 Link to podcast

    Dr. Emmy Betz  
Talking to Patients about Firearm Safety with Dr. Emmy Betz (June 2016).
Link to podcast

Ask questions or get help

Suicide Risk Management Consultation Program

Suicide Risk Management Consultation Program
  Free consultation, support and resources for any provider treating Veterans at risk of suicide. Visit the SRM page.  

Last Updated 3 December 2021