Context In 2002, an estimated 877 000 lives were lost worldwide through
suicide. Some developed nations have implemented national suicide prevention
plans. Although these plans generally propose multiple interventions, their
effectiveness is rarely evaluated.
Objectives To examine evidence for the effectiveness of specific suicide-preventive
interventions and to make recommendations for future prevention programs and
Data Sources and Study Selection Relevant publications were identified via electronic searches of MEDLINE,
the Cochrane Library, and PsychINFO databases using multiple search terms
related to suicide prevention. Studies, published between 1966 and June 2005,
included those that evaluated preventative interventions in major domains;
education and awareness for the general public and for professionals; screening
tools for at-risk individuals; treatment of psychiatric disorders; restricting
access to lethal means; and responsible media reporting of suicide.
Data Extraction Data were extracted on primary outcomes of interest: suicidal behavior
(completion, attempt, ideation), intermediary or secondary outcomes (treatment
seeking, identification of at-risk individuals, antidepressant prescription/use
rates, referrals), or both. Experts from 15 countries reviewed all studies.
Included articles were those that reported on completed and attempted suicide
and suicidal ideation; or, where applicable, intermediate outcomes, including
help-seeking behavior, identification of at-risk individuals, entry into treatment,
and antidepressant prescription rates. We included 3 major types of studies
for which the research question was clearly defined: systematic reviews and
meta-analyses (n = 10); quantitative studies, either randomized
controlled trials (n = 18) or cohort studies (n = 24);
and ecological, or population- based studies (n = 41). Heterogeneity
of study populations and methodology did not permit formal meta-analysis;
thus, a narrative synthesis is presented.
Data Synthesis Education of physicians and restricting access to lethal means were
found to prevent suicide. Other methods including public education, screening
programs, and media education need more testing.
Conclusions Physician education in depression recognition and treatment and restricting
access to lethal methods reduce suicide rates. Other interventions need more
evidence of efficacy. Ascertaining which components of suicide prevention
programs are effective in reducing rates of suicide and suicide attempt is
essential in order to optimize use of limited resources.