Preventing Suicide: Risk Factors & Warning Signs

We can all help prevent suicide. Learning the risk factors and warning signs of a potential suicide attempt can save lives.

Risk Factors

These characteristics increase the likelihood of suicide but aren’t necessarily direct causes. (CDC, AFSP)

  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Mental illness
  • Social isolation
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Stressful life events
  • Serious physical illness
  • Substance use disorder
  • Access to lethal means

Warning Signs

Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more changes in talk, mood and/or behavior. (AFSP, Suicide Prevention Lifeline)

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Increase in depression or anxiety
  • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods

What You Can Do

If you need help for yourself or someone else, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals at 1-800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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