A person planning to commit suicide will look for any method available. They will scan a room and see potential tools for self-harm where someone else might see a bed frame, a mirror, or a doorknob.
Many suicide attempts take place in mental health or incarceration facilities. As we wrote in an earlier post, 50% of suicides by hanging involve a ligature point lower than the patient’s height. This makes doorknobs and handles a common spot to tie a rope.
Removing these potential tools for self-harm is an effective way to prevent tragic suicides. Anti ligature locks, designed to preclude the attachment of any cord or rope, can help.
Suicide does not only impact the deceased, but it affects family, friends, and the employees at treatment facilities who are caring for mental health patients. Anti-ligature locks are an important safety feature for schools, hospitals, or any commercial building that could be the setting for a suicide attempt.
Read on for more information about the development and installation of these important safety features.
The Evolution of Anti-Ligature Locks
Sadly, the number of suicide deaths and attempts has risen steadily over the past few decades. This trend has hit all demographics—male, female, young, and old.
Even in mental health facilities with trained staff and resources, a determined patient will find a way to commit suicide. Mental health and incarceration facilities have born the brunt of this rising trend. At these facilities, patients and inmates search their rooms for any object available to incur self-harm.
In response, facilities have worked with architects and designers to create safer environments for the people under their care. They examined rooms and cells from top to bottom and redesigned many of the features to prevent them from being sued for self-harm.
Experts have found that one of the most common suicide methods involves strangulation by hanging from a doorknob. Designers worked with door manufacturers to create solutions.
The first anti-ligature design for a doorknob was a cone-shaped handle that prevented any ligature. Unfortunately, the cone-shaped handle was difficult to use. The design was not compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and needed further development.
Designers presented the current design of an anti-ligature lock, which includes a lever-shaped, ADA-accessible handle on each side of the door. It also features a lock mechanism that can be controlled from outside the room.
How Anti Ligature Locks Work
These locks work primarily by removing any part of the handle or lock mechanism design that would allow a ligature.
So, what does ligature mean? Generally, a ligature is anything that is used for tying something, like a rope or cord. Therefore, nothing can be attached to an anti-ligature lock.
On anti ligature locks, the traditional knob shape has been replaced with a lever or closed handle design. The lever will not remain rigid or upright, making it impossible to tie a cord securely onto it. The closed design removes the space between the handle and the door so that no cord or rope can be looped through.
The actual lock mechanism has been replaced with a sloped or curved plate, meaning any tie will simply slip off. The lock can be controlled from the inside but can always be unlocked from outside the door. The lock always provides external access.
Ligature-Resistant vs. Anti-Ligature
Anti-ligature originally referred to a design feature that made it impossible to tie onto. Ligature-resistant objects prevented some tying but had some possibilities or were not originally designed to prevent any tying. Over time, these two terms have become interchangeable in the mental health industry.
Ligature resistant features can be applied to more than just doors. Bathroom fixtures like soap dishes, mirrors, and toilets can be fitted with ligature-resistant aspects. Other room items like closets and beds can be made ligature resistant as well.
Further Safety Considerations
The anti-ligature lock provides a level of safety against suicide, but designers and architects have created many more features to consider in the overall design of a patient door.
For example, if a door opens into the room, it could be barricaded from the inside, giving the occupant time to harm themselves. Doors should be fitted with hinges that swing outward.
The top of a door can also be used for tying a rope to. Consider fitting doors with an over-the-door alarm to prevent this use as well.
Anti-ligature methods can also be used on windows, closet bars, mirrors, and other room features that might be used for self-harm.
Work to Prevent Suicide
It might seem daunting or nearly impossible to prevent suicide, but we need to remain alert and hopeful nevertheless. If you’re reading this article, you’re already taking the necessary steps to avoid this tragic occurrence in your home or facility. Consider installing anti-ligature locks now to help prevent future suicides.
Many door locks have been designed with the intent to keep danger out, but what if the danger comes from within? Refitting rooms can make them safer for people who are suffering from suicidal ideation.
While it’s not possible to predict when someone under your care will attempt self-harm, you can take steps to minimize this potential. Contact us today for more help or information about how to begin.