Suicide is complicated and not caused by a single event, loss, person or situation. 90% of people who take their lives have an underlying mental health and/or substance use issue and/or multiple other contributing factors. Add to the underlying vulnerabilities life stressors and this may result in a suicidal crisis. Below are some risk factors, warning signs as well as protective factors (things which help people cope with life stressors). Please be gentle with yourself as you read this section. Our hope is that you not read it and say “I missed these signs”, rather, it is a way of learning about a very complex set of events where much remains to be learned by all of us.
- Being male
- Family history of suicide or mental health issues
- Previous suicide attempts/previous or current mental health disorders
- Abuse (physical, drug, domestic, etc.)
- Losses (family, friends, financial, work, etc.)
- Lack of support structures
- Poor help-seeking skills
- Access to means
- Aggressive or impulsive behavior
- Sexual minority youth
- Youth who engage in binge drinking or drug use
- Problems with family, friends, school, work, the law, has experienced a traumatic event
- Hopelessness/feeling worthless/feeling like a burden
- Rage, anger, seeking revenge, anxiety, agitation, mood changes
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
- Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
- Increasing drug or alcohol use
- Change in appetite/fatigue/eating disorders
- Withdrawing from friends, family or society
- No reason for living, no sense of purpose in life
- Decline in school work, grades, infrequent class attendance
- Depressive disorders, eating disorders, previous suicide attempt, self-injury, etc.
Cause for Concern
- Have a recent severe loss (especially relationship) or threat of a significant loss.
- Experience drastic changes in behavior/mood
- Loss of interest in hobbies, work, activities.
- Loss of interest in their personal appearance.
- Giving away prized possessions.
- Be unwilling to “connect” with potential helpers.
- Use or increased use of alcohol and/or drugs
- Access to lethal means
Need for Immediate Action
- Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself.
- Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or no reason to live
- Sense of humor
- Support networks (friends, family, school)
- Problem solving skills
- Ability to express emotions
- Ability to ask for help
- Sense of hope and optimism and the future
- Things that help someone keep going
- Ability to overcome obstacles or challenges in life
- Personality characteristics
- Attitude towards problems
- Response to stressors