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SAFER brief community intervention: a primary suicide prevention strategy to improve firearm and medication storage behaviour

Abstract

Objective To determine if a brief intervention, called Signpost, Assess, Facts, Emotion, Recommend (SAFER), designed to motivate changes in behaviour to secure firearms and medications to prevent future suicide is feasible to implement in community-based settings such as gun shows, acceptable to participants at higher risk for suicide including veterans and men in the middles years (35–64) and improves firearm and medication locking behaviours.

Methods 1175 people received SAFER over a 12-month period at 18 gun shows and community events in 2019 and completed a preassessment measuring firearms ownership, storage practices, knowledge about suicide as the leading type of firearm fatality and attitudes about suicide prevention. 372 responded to a brief postassessment using comparable measures.

Results 85% of participants reported keeping firearms at home. 43.7% reported current or prior military service. 53.2% were males between the ages of 35 and 64. Among those who responded to the postassessment, 61% of participants reported SAFER to be highly valuable. Safe firearms storage improved among participants who completed the preassessment and postassessment (51.2% pre, 66.0% post; p<0.01) as did safe medication storage (14.8% pre, 21.6% post; p=0.01). Knowledge that most firearm fatalities are suicides (33.4% pre, 45.8% post; p<0.01) also improved.

Conclusions It is feasible, acceptable and effective to reach groups at elevated risk for suicide using a brief intervention strategy in unconventional settings. Community-based interventions to improve safe storage motivated by suicide prevention messaging should be prioritised because men in the middle years are less likely to use mental health services.

  • suicide/selfharm
  • health education
  • legislation
  • safe community
  • firearm

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Data are deidentified participant data available from MM at meadows5@uw.edu.

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