How Anti-Suicide Blankets and Smocks Work

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How Anti-Suicide Blankets and Smocks Work

Everything You Need To Know About Anti-Suicide Blankets and Smocks

Experts say that there is a worldwide mental health crisis – and its effects can be seen in prisons, jails, hospitals, and similar facilities. This 2016 study conducted by English researchers found that suicide rates are significantly high in incarcerated populations. In fact, the suicide rate among female prisoners is 20x higher than the non-incarcerated population. For males, it is 5-6x higher.  

Many speculate that the reason for these rates is the set of environmental factors found in prisons and similar facilities. These often include isolation, separation from family or society, lack of protection or safety, difficulty adjusting, and lack of purposeful daily activity. 

What can be done about this alarming trend? One possible solution is to equip facilities with gear that is designed to prevent suicides and self-harm. Fortunately, plenty of equipment is made specifically to combat this issue.

Blankets and smocks are two examples. Patients may try to use regular blankets and smocks as materials to be used in their instance of self-harm or suicide attempt. That’s why some blankets and smocks are designed with an anti-suicide approach.

Read below to learn all about these materials and how they can prevent suicides.

Anti-Suicide Blankets 

Incarcerated people are entitled to blankets and sheets to sleep with. However, regular blankets can be used in suicide attempts – most commonly, they are ripped and tied into nooses with knots.

Anti-suicide blankets are particularly difficult to tear. They are usually made from quilted nylon or a similar material. They are a little more stiff to avoid tearing, but they ultimately still serve the purpose of a normal blanket.


Anti-Suicide Smocks 

Some patients may try to tear their clothing to create a noose, similar to what was described above with blankets. That’s why anti-suicide smocks are popular and sometimes necessary. These smocks are made with nylon or a similar material. They don’t have any small foldable components like sleeves or collars. They are thick, and contain small nylon hooks or fasteners to close. Ultimately, the goal of these smocks is to provide warmth to patients or facility members who choose to wear them.


The History of Anti-Suicide Products

For anti-suicide smocks, the history dates back a few decades. Most records point to the inventor being Lonna Speer, a nurse working in a jail in Santa Cruz, California. She invented what was called the ‘Safety Smock’ in 1989. Prior to the invention, prisoners would often be forced to wear nothing – arguably a much more dehumanizing approach than the safety smock.

Now, the American Correctional Association has approved Safety Smocks and similar garments for use in prisons and other facilities. These must meet certain criteria to be permitted.

What Other Kinds of Anti-Suicide Products Are There? 

Now, plenty of products are designed to reduce harm and suicide. Items like helmets, shelves, and furniture are made for these facilities. Each one is either made from material that cannot be used to facilitate suicide attempts.

How Else Can Facilities Reduce Harm?

As with blankets and smocks, the right equipment can make a big difference. Beyond equipment, though, institutions can – and should – take further steps to reduce self-harm and suicide.

These facilities should implement the following measures:

  • Having only cordless appliances accessible to patients or prisoners – the cords can often be used for self-strangulation

  • Making sure that there are no hooks or protruding objects on walls or in cells – these can be used for hangings or for puncturing the skin

  • Providing sufficient lighting – this is linked to mood stability

  • Installing functioning smoke detectors

There are plenty more ways to make facilities safer. The National Center on Institutions and Alternatives published a checklist for harm-resistant facility design with further guidelines. 


Suicides and instances of self-harm need to be prevented in prisons and patient-care facilities. Fortunately, products like anti-suicide smocks and blankets can prevent these issues. Facilities should equip themselves with materials like these to ensure that they cultivate a safe environment.

Ultimately, blankets and smocks play a small role in the larger shift towards prioritizing mental health for patients. Safety should always be a top concern for facilities like these.