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Protective Factors

Protective Factors are resources and aspects of our lives that promote healthy stress navigation and build resilience. They can be personal, external or environmental. During times of extreme stress or crises, protective factors can counterbalance risks for self-harm. Strengthening protective factors is an ongoing process that takes all hands.

Protective Factors against suicide include:​

  • Sense of community and belonging
  • Strong connections with family and friends
  • Comprehensive wellness including quality sleep, proper nutrition and physical activity/exercise
  • The desire to "take care" of one's health
  • Sense of self-worth
  • Sense of purpose
  • Personal fulfillment
  • Contribution or responsibility to others
  • Access to mental and physical health care
  • Finding positive meaning in one's life
  • Optimism
  • Beliefs that support self-preservation
  • Problem solving and non-violent conflict resolution skills
  • Sobriety
  • Safe storage of lethal means 

Lethal Means Safety
During times of increased stress, the risk of suicide is simultaneously heightened. Lethal means safety is the process of ensuring that highly lethal means of suicide are not as easily accessible during these times. Practicing lethal means safety has been proven as an effective way to prevent suicide. Some lethal means include but are not limited to firearms, certain prescription medications and structural hazards.


  • Firearms are the most common method of suicide both in the U.S. and in the military. They accounted for approximately 50% of all suicide deaths in the U.S. and approximately 60% of all suicide deaths in the military in 2018.
  • Research shows that when a weapon is less accessible during high-risk periods, the likelihood of an immediate suicide attempt decreases.
  • During times of increased stress, storing personally owned firearms with a gun lock in a secured safe separate from ammunition can decrease suicide risk.
  • Gun locks may be available at your installation. Your command Suicide Prevention Coordinator (SPC) may have additional information.
Prescription Drugs

  • According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, nearly one third of suicide attempts among veterans involve prescription medication. In the Navy, prescription drug urinalysis positives have increased 20% from fiscal years 2013 to 2016, meaning that they are more readily available.
  • At-home disposal of prescription drugs is an easy way to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescription drugs.
  • To dispose at home, empty medications into a small plastic bag mixed with water and an undesirable substance (such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds) and throw the bag in the trash. Cross out all personal information from the prescription labels before discarding the bottle. Learn more from Navy Drug Detection and Deterrence's (DDD's) Too Much to Lose campaign​.
  • Drop box disposal is another safe and secure way to dispose of prescription drugs. Some military treatment facilities (MTFs) have drop boxes, including:
    • ​Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital
    • Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune
    • Naval Health Clinic Charleston
    • Naval Hospital Jacksonville
    • Naval Medical Center San Diego
Structural and Environmental Hazards

  • Suicide barriers are an increasingly common means of preventing jumping deaths from bridges and other tall structures. Some common deterrent options include mesh fences, glass panels, spikes, and steel nets.
  • In some Navy barracks, break-away shower curtain rods are used as a suicide prevention means. The rod's flanges are designed to release the shower curtain rod when excessive weight is applied.
  • For an individual who is actively suicidal, removing or altering environmental hazards in the home can help deter suicide. This may include putting knives, razor blades or other sharp objects out of reach; removing long cords, ropes, or shoestrings; and/or limiting access to fixtures that may be used to assist in strangulation or hanging.

Reducing access to lethal means saves lives. See below for resources encouraging Sailors to practice lethal means safety. See below for resources encouraging Sailors to practice lethal means safety.​
Description and Links
Lethal Means Safety Fact Sheet This fact sheet provides key information on the Navy’s guidance for commanders and health professionals on reducing access to lethal means through voluntary storage of privately owned firearms and on proper disposal of prescription medications.

Lethal Means Fact Sheet

Lethal Means Safety Posters ​The first two posters in a series encouraging safe storage of highly lethal methods of suicide during times of increased stress. Print size is 8.5"x11", however, full sized versions (16"x20") are available for ordering from the Naval Logistics Library.

Lethal Means Safety Poster 1                                                        Lethal Means Safety Poster 2

Lethal Means Safety Graphics ​These graphics can be used on personal, command-owned and partner social media channels to accompany messaging promoting lethal means safety as well as stress navigation and suicide prevention efforts. ​

Version 1                           Version 2                           Version 3

Drop Box Graphic ​Graphic featuring information on accepted and unaccepted drugs for drop box disposal. Can be used on personal, command-owned and partner social media channels or at medical treatment facilities to promote drop box use. 

Drop Box Graphic (Flickr)

These resources provide additional information on lethal means safety.
  Veterans Crisis Line - Dial 988  Safe Helpline  NCIS Tips  Sexual Assault Prevention & Response  NFAAS

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