Remove All Means of Self Harm

Carefulness Costs You Nothing; Carelessness May Cost You Your Life.

A workplace phrase of the early 1900’s

The quickest and most effective way to keep yourself safe during your suicidal crisis is to remove your access to any means of self-harm. Suicidal crises can come on very quickly. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can easily be triggered by an external event, become emotionally distraught, and decide that now is the time to kill yourself. To keep yourself safe, I would like you to take these steps.

  1. Take inventory of any things around you that you could use to hurt yourself. It would be best if you ask someone to look with you. They may be in or around your home or somewhere nearby. What did you find?

    Means of self-harm might include guns, razors, scissors, knives, needles, syringes, neckties, ropes, prescription or recreational drugs, over-the-counter meds, alcohol, household chemicals, or cleaners. Guns are particularly lethal because you if have a gun nearby you can quickly and easily use it to make a suicide attempt, and the inflicted injury is almost always fatal

  2. Take those items to a location where you cannot get to them. Take items like razors, scissors, and rope to the nearest dumpster. The best way to dispose of psychiatric medications is to put them in either an unmarked container or sealable bag with a substance such as used coffee grounds. Then throw the bag in the trash.
  3. Let someone know that you would like assistance in removing any means of self-harm. For example, if you have access to a firearm, it is extremely important that you give the gun, ammunition, and any documentation you could use to purchase another one to a friend. They can keep them in a safe place until your crisis passes. Give a loved one or a neighbor the keys to your car to stop you from driving to a high place or from using the car to produce carbon monoxide.
  4. After you have removed all possible means of self-harm, notify people close to you such as close friends, a social worker, a therapist, or a psychiatrist that you are having a suicidal crisis.  I once told several people that I did not want to kill myself; I just wanted to wake up dead one morning.  This allowed them to ask me about my feelings, motives, and plans and to show me my list of reasons to stay alive.)
  5. Finally, consider reading one of the following pages below 
    How to Create a Safety Plan
    Reasons to Stay Alive
    Your Path to Overcoming Suicidal Pain
    Reasons for Hope

Why Removing Access to Means of Self-Harm Works

Reducing access to means of suicide is by far the most effective way to keep you safe. This is because the urge to die by suicide can come on very suddenly and can cause you to act on this urge very quickly. Additionally, we know that the time before your first thought of suicide and your attempt can be remarkably as short as ten minutes.  Thus, surviving a suicidal crisis often means waiting until the urge passes. If you don’t have access to the means of harming yourself, you will be more likely to survive this momentary impulse.

Survival Stories

For example, when I was suicidal, I asked my partner Joan to take my stash of antidepressants and hide them. I was afraid that in a moment of desperation I might swallow them all. She took ownership of my pills until my episode was over.

When one of my suicidal support group members said he had a gun in his home, the other group members implored him to give the gun to a neighbor. The group member followed the group’s advice, and he is alive today.

A 1978 study found that 90 percent of people who were interrupted during a suicide attempt on the Golden Gate Bridge did not die from suicide later.

For many years in Britain, people took their lives by asphyxiating themselves using stoves heated with coal-derived gas. A high rate of suicide continued in the country until the British government phased out coal in favor of the less toxic natural gas. By the early 1970’s, Britain’s national suicide rate had dropped by nearly a third.

The takeaway from all this is if you deny yourself the means to carry out a self-harming behavior, you will be less likely to look for another means to take your life.

If you are on the verge of harming yourself or think that you are at risk of doing so, please let someone know that you would like assistance in removing means of self-harm. Then remove from your environment ANY MEANS that you might use to make an attempt on your life.