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Risk factors and warning signs

While there is no single cause for suicide, there are risk factors and warning signs which may increase likelihood of an attempt. Being aware of these signs can save lives.

What can lead to suicide?

There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide often occurs when life stressors and health issues come together to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. A person may feel like they just want their pain to go away and as if suicide would solve of these strugggles. When it does not. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide.

Suicide risk factors

Risk factors are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take their life.

Risk factor: Health

  • Mental health conditions
    • Depression
    • Substance use problems
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Schizophrenia
    • Personality traits of aggression, mood changes and poor relationships
    • Conduct disorder
    • Anxiety disorders
  • Serious physical health conditions
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Chronic pain

Risk factor: Environmental

  • Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
  • Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment
  • Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, other life transitions or loss
  • Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide

Risk factor: Historical

  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma

Suicide warning signs

Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or entirely new behaviors. Especially if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do. Any behavior change that is notable is worth exploring.

Warning sign: Talk

If a person talks about:

  • Killing themselves
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Unbearable pain

Warning sign: Behavior

Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling or texting people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression
  • Fatigue
  • Posting on social media that they no longer want to live
  • Perfectionism

Warning sign: Mood

People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation/Shame
  • Agitation/Anger
  • Withdrawn

Testimonials

"I believe I have been with the Center for Suicide Awareness for the past ten years helping in whatever I could do to make known to the public that the Center is here to give support to those lost a loved one to suicide. Having the experience of wanting to end my life because I no longer could bear the pain of depression. By the grace of God I did not complete my route to suicide. I was fortunate that my brain chemistry slowly began to stablize and was helped by a police sargeant who had experience with mental illnesses and helped me back to my family. Because of this experience, I have been able to help families what may have been happening in their loved ones' lives that caused them to consider suicide."

~ G.P.S.

"I am forever grateful to The Center for Suicide Awareness for allowing a platform to tell our daughter's story. Amanda was 26 when she died by suicide 13 years ago. Through the Center, I have been able to try to bring to light her struggles and keep her memory alive. Whether it be in person, one-on-one, large groups, oral or written, her story is very important to our family. She will always be our daughter and must not be forgotten."

~ J.R.

"The Center for Suicide Awareness is an amazing organization working to reduce suicide rates, eliminate stigma, train communities in resilience and inform communities about mental health. These individuals at the center are kind, passionate, and do good in the community. The center created the hopeline for individuals in need of immediate suicide intervention. I highly recommend participating in their events, utilizing their resources if necessary, and/or getting involved in some way so that we can combat suicide together!"

~ J.K.

"What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain."
~ Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now