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

Inj Prev. 2021 Oct;27(5):428-434. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2020-043902. Epub 2020 Oct 19.


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.

Keywords: firearm; health education; legislation; safe community; suicide/selfharm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ownership
  • Suicide Prevention*