A pilot randomized clinical trial of a lethal means safety intervention for young adults with firearm familiarity at risk for suicide

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2020 Apr;88(4):372-383. doi: 10.1037/ccp0000481. Epub 2020 Jan 9.


Objective: Firearms are the most common method of suicide in the United States. The provision of firearm-specific lethal means safety interventions is a best practice for the prevention and management of suicide risk. However, few data exist to inform firearm-specific lethal means safety interventions. This study tested four different lethal means safety interventions that varied on two dimensions salient to health behavior change (i.e., fear appeals and emphasis on temporariness).

Method: Overall, 96 college-enrolled young adults with a history of suicidal ideation and current firearm familiarity (i.e., firearm ownership, access, and/or a desire/intention to obtain a firearm) were randomized to one of four different firearm-specific lethal means safety interventions occurring in the context of the Safety Planning Intervention. Assessments occurred at preintervention, postintervention, and 1-month follow-up.

Results: Participants who received the firearm-specific lethal means safety intervention that deemphasized fear and emphasized temporariness reported significantly greater intentions to adhere to clinician recommendations to limit their access to firearms for safety purposes compared to individuals randomized to the other groups (Intervention × Time), F(6, 184) = 2.300, p = .036, corresponding to a medium effect size (ηp² = .070). Across groups, 35.4% of participants reported an increase in engagement in firearm safety thoughts/behaviors from preintervention to 1-month follow-up; there were no significant group differences. All four intervention approaches were rated as similarly highly acceptable.

Conclusions: Findings underscore the potential importance of deemphasizing fear and emphasizing temporariness in firearm-specific lethal means safety interventions. Future studies leveraging these pilot data are needed to replicate and extend findings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03272048.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Fear
  • Female
  • Firearms*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Male
  • Ownership
  • Pilot Projects
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide Prevention*
  • United States
  • Violence
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03272048