Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. With the appropriate recognition and treatment, it is also one of the most preventable. Even though the conditions leading to suicide are complex, there are certain factors that can help determine who might be at risk. Some of these include depression, alcohol or substance abuse, past suicide attempts, helplessness, overwhelming stress, a family history of suicide or abuse.
It is important for anyone who is having suicidal thoughts to talk about their feelings with someone. It may start with a family member, friend or clergy. Many times it is necessary to obtain a thorough evaluation from a trained professional. The most important thing is to get help.
Over the last several years, there has been an ever-increasing awareness and focus on suicide prevention.
A combination of individual, relational, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are those characteristics associated with suicide—they might not be direct causes.
- Family history of suicide
- Family history of child maltreatment
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
- History of alcohol and substance abuse
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
- Local epidemics of suicide
- Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
- Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
- Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
- Physical illness
- Easy access to lethal methods
- Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts
Protective factors for suicide:
Protective factors buffer individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior. To date, protective factors have not been studied as extensively or rigorously as risk factors. Identifying and understanding protective factors are, however, equally as important as researching risk factors.
- Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
- Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking
- Family and community support (connectedness)
- Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
- Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
- Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self-preservation
(U.S. Public Health Service 1999)
Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention