Objective: The aim of this paper is to explore the conceptual basis of limiting access to potential methods of suicide as a public health measure.
Method: A review of the literature was conducted.
Results: Both physical availability and sociocultural acceptability are important determinants of choice. There is considerable evidence of an association between method availability and method specific suicide rates. There is also evidence that restriction of method availability is often associated with a reduction in method specific suicide rates. There is some evidence that restrictions on method availability under certain conditions may reduce overall suicide rates.
Conclusions: Suicide methods employed by young Australians are changing, with a disturbing rise in frequency of hanging and car exhaust suicides slightly offset by a decline in firearm suicides. Opportunities exist for further reducing firearm suicides and addressing exhaust suicides by practical measures. There are also obvious options for changing prescribing practices with respect to more lethal medications (e.g. tricyclic antidepressants). However, the rise in hanging seems problematic from this perspective and in need of ecological study.