Risk and Protective Factors

Risk Factors
Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that individuals will consider, attempt or die by suicide.

  1. Previous suicide attempts
  2. Mental Disorders, particularly depression, anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and certain personality disorders
  3. Alcohol or other substance use disorders
  4. Family history of mental disorder or substance use disorder
  5. History of trauma, abuse or sexual assault
  6. Family history of suicide or exposure to others that have died by suicide
  7. Family violence
  8. Chronic physical illness, including chronic pain
  9. Firearms in the home or access to other lethal means
  10. Lack of social support or social isolation
  11. Major life adjustment
  12. Incarceration
  13. Perfectionism

Protective Factors
The risk of suicide can be lowered by certain protective factors. They include:

  1. Having a support system (family, friends, and school)
  2. Spiritual Beliefs or participation in a religious community
  3. Good self-care and positive thinking
  4. Communication, planning, and problem-solving skills
  5. An ability to manage strong emotions
  6. Access to mental health care and willingness to accept help
  7. A school environment that encourages help seeking and promotes health
  8. Other environmental protections, such as reducing access to firearms and other lethal weapons
  9. Environment that encourages help seeking and promotes health

Warning Signs

Warning signs indicate an immediate possibility of suicide, whereas risk factors indicate someone has an increased likelihood for suicide, but indicate little or nothing about immediate danger.

  1. Starting or increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  2. Aggressive, impulsive, reckless or disruptive behavior
  3. Talking about death and dying, expressing a strong wish to die or talking about wanting “pain” to end
  4. Preoccupation with death
  5. Planning a suicide
  6. Giving away belongings, tying up loose ends, saying goodbye to friends and family
  7. Purchasing a firearm
  8. Obtaining other means of killing oneself


Source: Partners in Prevention