BACKGROUND Trends and availability of the methods used for suicide in Finland were analysed in order to base proposals for prevention of access to methods.
METHODS Finnish suicides from 1947 to 1990 were analysed by sex, age, time period and suicide method using confidence intervals for rates, chi 2 test for trends and suicide risks for different medicines.
RESULTS Suicide rate by parathion, a highly lethal pesticide and commonly used for suicide in the 1950s, decreased after its availability was restricted, but this was offset by an increased rate by other methods. Since 1982, the suicide risk for antidepressants and neuroleptics increased coincident with their availability, although that for barbiturates remained stable but high despite a reduction in availability. Suicide risk for antidepressants other than tricyclics decreased despite increased availability.
CONCLUSION Restriction of a method reduces its use for suicide, but other methods tend to replace it. Restrictive measures should focus on some specific situations. Antidepressants other than tricyclics are recommended for the treatment of suicidal depressive patients.