AFSP holds policy positions on the following key issues related to suicide prevention.
Antidepressant use in youth and young adults. Several years ago, the FDA called for a black box warning on antidepressant medications. The warning notifies healthcare providers and consumers that these drugs have been associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in young adults 18 to 24 years of age. (A similar warning was previously issued on these medications for use in youth under age 18.) The black box warning resulted from information presented to the FDA by a coalition of mental health and suicide prevention organizations, including AFSP. Our suggested warning for young adults indicates that treatment of depression can be beneficial, and that untreated depression also carries risk for suicide. AFSP is concerned that a warning label on antidepressant medications might deter depressed individuals in these age groups from seeking treatment, which could lead to increased suicide risk. AFSP supports the call for better monitoring of patients taking these medications, better education of family members and caregivers about the benefits of treatment, and better information about how to watch for and identify any possible adverse effects.
Firearms and suicide. Firearms are by far the most commonly used instrument of suicide. Research shows that having a firearm in the home greatly increases suicide risk. AFSP advocates the passage of national and state legislation restricting handgun ownership, and requiring trigger locks on and safe storage of these weapons.AFSP supports comprehensive public education on the dangers of firearms. We recommend that healthcare professionals who treat suicidal patients be trained to inquire about access to firearms as part of their assessment.
Bridge barriers and suicide. AFSP-funded research and additional studies worldwide clearly demonstrate that prevention barriers on bridges are effective in reducing the number of suicides. Suicide by jumping tends to be impulsive; these barriers give suicidal individuals a potentially life-saving window of time to change their minds and instead seek treatment. State and local officials across the country are taking steps to install bridge barriers: in San Francisco, officials voted to install netting below the Golden Gate Bridge span, and the New Mexico state legislature approved a bill mandating a feasibility study on installing a barrier on the Rio Grande Gorge bridge. AFSP supports these and other efforts to place physical deterrents on bridges where suicides frequently occur.