Suicide Risk Factors and Warning Signs

THIS POST IS PART OF A WEEK-LONG SUICIDE PREVENTION WEEK SERIES. IF YOU ARE, OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS, IN DISTRESS, PLEASE CONTACT 911 OR THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: 1-800-273-8255

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Some people are more at risk for suicide than others. According to the National Alliance For Mental Illness, factors that increase this risk include:

  • A family history of suicide
  • Substance abuse
    • Drugs and alcohol can result in mental highs and lows that exacerbate suicidal thoughts.
  • Intoxication
    • More than one in three people who die from suicide are found to be currently under the influence.
  • Access to firearms
  • A serious or chronic medical illness
  • Gender
    • Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to die by suicide.
  • A history of trauma or abuse
  • Prolonged stress
  • Isolation
  • Age
    • People under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide.
  • A recent tragedy or loss
  • Agitation and sleep deprivation

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But how can we tell if a person is actually suicidal? The best way to know, of course, is to ask. In addition, however, many individuals exhibit warning signs. According to multiple sources including a 2006 study cited by Mental Health First Aid USA, suicide warning signs include:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself
  • Seeking access to means
    • including pills or weapons
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
    • Including in young people’s schoolwork, creative writing, and artwork
  • Expressing hopelessness, a lack of purpose, or no reason for living
  • Exhibiting anger or rage, or seeking revenge
  • Engaging in risky or reckless activities
  • Feeling trapped
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Being increasingly anxious or agitated
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Having a dramatic change in mood
    • This may include a large shift from sad or depressed to happy due to having come to the resolution to kill oneself.

Check back tomorrow for a  post about how to start the conversation and ask the question!

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