Treating the capability for suicide: A vital and understudied frontier in suicide prevention.
Anestis, M., Law, K., Jin, H., Houtsma, C., Khazem, L., & Assavedo, B.
Current efforts at suicide prevention center largely on reducing suicidal desire among individuals hospitalized for suicidality or being treated for related psychopathology. Such efforts have yielded evidence-based treatments, and yet the national suicide rate has continued to climb. We propose that this disconnect is heavily influenced by an unmet need to consider population-level interventions aimed at reducing the capability for suicide. Drawing on lessons learned from other public health phenomena that have seen drastic declines in frequency in recent decades (HIV, lung cancer, motor vehicle accidents), we propose that current suicidality treatment efforts trail current suicidality theories in their lack of focus on the extent to which individuals thinking about suicide are capable of transitioning from ideation to attempt. We summarize extant evidence for specific capability-centered approaches (e.g., means safety) and propose other options for improving our ability to address this largely overlooked variable. We also note that population-level approaches in this regard would represent an important opportunity to decrease risk in individuals who either lack access to evidence-based care or underreport suicidal ideation, as a reduced capability for suicide would theoretically diminish the potency of suicidal desire and, in this sense, lower the odds of a transition from ideation to attempt.