Suicide Risk Factors & Warning Signs
Recognizing the signs of suicide risk is a crucial step in preventing suicide. While each individual’s experience is unique, there are common factors and signs that may indicate someone is struggling. By familiarizing ourselves with these risk factors and warning signs, we empower ourselves to intervene and provide support which may help save a life.
It’s important to note that these signs can vary from person to person, and the presence of one or more signs does not guarantee that someone is thinking about suicide. If you notice these signs in yourself or someone you know, it’s essential to seek help and support from mental health professionals, friends, family, or helplines.
Know the Warning Signs
- Talk of suicide: expressing thoughts of wanting to die, feeling trapped, or being a burden to others
- Expressing hopelessness: feeling like there is no way out of their current situation
- Seeking access to means: actively seeking access to firearms, medications or other means to end one’s life
- Increased isolation: withdrawing from social interactions, family, and friends
- Drastic mood swings: frequent and intense mood changes, from extreme sadness to sudden calmness
- Risky behavior: engaging in reckless activities without concern for their safety
- Giving away possessions: distributing personal belongings as if saying goodbye or saying they no longer have use for the item(s)
- Sudden improvement: a sudden and unexpected improvement in mood after a period of distress (may indicated at peace with a decision to end their life)
- Talking about death: frequently talking about death or dying, even in casual conversations
- Loss of interest: Losing interest in activities and hobbies they once enjoyed
- Change in sleep patters: significant changes in sleep, such as insomnia or oversleeping
- Changes in appetite: drastic weight loss or gain due to changes in eating habits
- Decline in personal care: neglecting personal hygiene and appearance
- Extreme anger or rage: exhibiting uncharacteristic outbursts of anger or aggression
- Feeling trapped: expressing a feeling of being trapped in their circumstances
- Substance abuse: increased use of drugs or alcohol as a way to cope
- Lack of purpose: expressing feelings of purposelessness or feeling like a burden
- Loss or major life change: recent loss, trauma, or significant life changes that can contribute to emotional distress
Know Who is at Risk for Suicide
Individuals may be more likely at risk of suicide if they:
- Mental health conditions: mental health conditions, especially untreated, can significantly elevate the risk of suicide
- Previous suicide attempts: a history of previous suicide attempts is one of the most significant risk factors for future attempts
- Family history: having a family member who has died by suicide increases the risk due to both genetic and environmental factors
- History of abuse: individuals who have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse are at higher risk
- Chronic illness: chronic pain, terminal illness, or severe medical conditions can contribute to feelings of hopelessness
- Substance abuse: drug and alcohol misuse can impair judgment and increase impulsivity, amplifying suicide risk
- Access to lethal means: easy access to firearms, medications, or other lethal methods increases the likelihood of acting on suicidal thoughts
- Social isolation: lack of social support and feelings of loneliness can exacerbate emotional distress
- Loss of a loved one: grief and loss, especially through death, divorce, or separation
- Unemployment or financial stress: economic instability and job loss can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair
- Relationship issues: strained relationships, marital problems, or social conflicts
- Exposure to suicide: being exposed to someone else’s suicide or suicidal behavior can increase the likelihood of considering it oneself
- Cultural or religious beliefs: some cultural or religious beliefs may stigmatize mental health issues, making seeking help difficult
- Lack of access to mental health services: limited access to quality mental health care can prevent individuals from receiving timely help
- Impulsivity: a tendency to act impulsively without considering consequences
- Gender: while females attempt suicide more often, males are more likely to die by suicide due to the methods they use
- Age: nationally older adults and adolescents have higher rates of suicide due to unique life challenges
- Sexual orientation and gender identity: LGBTQ+ individuals may face discrimination and social isolation, contributing to increased suicide risk
- Bullying: persistent bullying, whether in person or online, can lead to severe emotional distress
- Criminal history: a history of legal troubles or incarceration can increase vulnerability to suicide
There Is No Single Cause of Suicide
Suicide is a complex issue and there is no one single cause that can explain it. It often arises from a combination of various factors, which can include mental health challenges, life circumstances, personal experiences, and environmental influences. Help is available 24/7.
Contrary to myth, talking about suicide cannot plant the idea in someone’s head.
Contrary to a common myth, asking someone if they are having thoughts of suicide won’t plant the idea in their mind. In fact, engaging in an open and empathetic conversation about suicide can have the opposite effect. It offers them an opportunity to express their feelings, reduces their isolation, and enables them to access the support they desperately need. When we address the topic directly and with care, we show that we are willing to listen and understand, creating a space where individuals feel less alone in their struggles. Talking openly about suicide encourages help-seeking behavior and provides a chance for early intervention, which is crucial for saving lives. So, if you are ever in doubt, ask.
Our educational resources section offers talking points, articles, videos, and sharable downloads to help spread the word about suicide prevention and how you can help. Knowledge is a powerful tool in the fight against suicide, and these resources are designed to empower you with the information you need.
1. Talk with Family & Friends
2. Spread the word
3. Know the warning signs.
How to Talk With Youth and Young People
Every parent would like to believe that suicide is not relevant to them or their family or friends. Unfortunately, it’s all too relevant for all of us. It’s the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-14 and third leading cause of death for ages 15-24. The unfortunate truth is that suicide can happen to any kid in any family at any time. It’s very important to know that suicide is not about bad parenting. Below are some tips on how to begin the conversation and encourage ongoing open conversation.
Timing is everything!
Think about what you want to say ahead of time and rehearse a script if necessary.
If this is a hard subject for you to talk about, admit it!
Ask for your child’s response. Be direct.
Listen to what your child has to say.
Keep calm. Don’t overreact or under-react.
Parents, Guardians and Trusted Adults: Read the Below
Firearms are the most commonly used method for suicide. Reducing access to lethal means, such as firearms, can save lives. Many suicide attempts are made with little planning during a short-term crisis period. If highly lethal means, like firearms, are made less available and they substitute less lethal means, or temporarily postpone their attempt, the odds are increased that they will survive. Many times, when lethal means are not readily accessible, people will not seek out alternative means that may be harder to get or take more time. This is just one reason why safe storage of firearms is important. Many police departments provide free gun locks. Contact your local police to obtain your free gun lock.
Developmentally, the years between childhood and adulthood represent a critical period of transition and significant cognitive, mental, emotional and social change.
Talking to your teenager (or a teenager you know) about, well, anything, can be difficult. When it comes to sensitive issues like mental health, getting a conversation started can be even harder.
There is no need to be embarrassed about asking questions or reaching out for help.
If you are like most parents, you probably have very little experience accessing or using mental health services.
is often oversimplified, when, in fact, it is very complex. Many issues contribute to suicide risk, including depression, substance use, problems at home and trauma history.
When your child’s life is touched by the suicide of a peer or a friend, you may find yourself experiencing a lot of different things about the same time.
First, defuse your own anxiety about talking about death and funerals by remembering that most of your child’s concerns come from being exposed to an unfamiliar situation.
A protective factor can be defined as “a characteristic at the biological, psychological, family or community (including peers and culture) level that is associated with a lower likelihood of problem outcomes or that reduces the negative impact of a risk factor on problem outcomes.”
For Youth, Young People & Community
Time is the crucial thing when dealing with a friend who is having suicidal thoughts.
Help A Friend in Need
Facebook and Instagram worked with the JED Foundation and others to share potential warning signs that a friend might be in emotional distress and need your help.
A leading national organization providing crisis and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people ages 13 to 24.
Your presence can be the best present someone could ever receive.
Call 877-565-8860 – operates 24 hours a day.
Additional Suicide Prevention Resources
Suicide is complex, but it can generally be prevented. Seek help or learn how to help others now.
World Suicide Prevention Day
Every year on September 10, join us as we raise awareness for suicide prevention in Stark County. Suicide affects people of all ages, gender, race, ethnicity, social and economic class. Wear purple during the day and light a candle in the window at 8:00 p.m.
American Association of Suicidology (AAS)
American Association of Suicidology AAS is a non-profit organization that promotes research, public awareness programs, public education, and training for professionals and volunteers. It serves as a national clearinghouse for information on suicide, publishing and disseminating statistics and suicide prevention resources. AAS also hosts national annual conferences for professionals and survivors.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is a non-profit organization that funds research to advance understanding of suicide and suicide prevention. It also offers educational programs and resources for professionals, survivors of suicide loss, and the public about suicide prevention. AFSP’s chapters provide connections to local resources and services addressing suicide prevention, as well as organize awareness events.
Children’s Safety Network (CSN)
Children’s Safety Network (CSN) is a national resource center for injury and violence prevention, including suicide prevention, that provides technical assistance on injury prevention planning, programs, and best practices; analyzes and interprets injury data; partners with national organizations and Federal agencies to promote child and adolescent health and safety; disseminates injury prevention research; conducts trainings and presentations; and produces publications.
The Jason Foundation, Inc. (JFI) is dedicated to the prevention of the “Silent Epidemic” of youth suicide through educational and awareness programs that equip young people, educators/youth workers and parents with the tools and resources to help identify and assist at-risk youth.
The Jed Foundation
The Jed Foundation promotes emotional health and prevention of suicide among college and university students. To achieve this end, the organization collaborates with the public and leaders in higher education, mental health, and research. The Jed Foundation provides a variety of educational resources for colleges and universities, both staff and students; parents of college students; and the community.
Let’s Talk About It: A Graphic Guide To Mental Health
StarkMHAR has collaborated with The Center for Cartoon Studies to create a mental health comic book! Let’s Talk About It: A Graphic Guide To Mental Health is designed to destigmatize the conversation around mental health addressing everything from stress to anxiety to addiction. The book also looks at how the brain affects behavior, shares ways to stay mentally healthy, and directs readers toward resources for those who need help. It will soon be distributed to every middle school student in Stark County. Order or download the comic »
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) The NIMH website has a section on suicide prevention that includes information and resources useful for a variety of audiences, including researchers, health care professionals, and consumers. NIMH also conducts research on suicide and suicide prevention. Updates on the research can be found through News from the Field: Research Findings of NIMH-funded Investigators, from EurekAlert!
Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation
The Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation is a prevention, education and resource organization that provides suicide prevention organizations information and resources, raises awareness, eliminates stigma and increases help-seeking behavior for all Ohioans.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) funds and supports the National Lifeline and SPRC, and manages the Garrett Lee Smith grant program, which funds State, Territorial, and Tribal programs to prevent suicide among youth. It has developed the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), which reviews evidence of effectiveness for prevention programs on topics related to behavioral health, including suicide. It has numerous educational materials about behavioral health issues. SAMHSA also sponsors several prevention campaigns.
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to prevent suicide through public awareness and education, reduce stigma and serve as a resource to people affected by suicide. Its prevention and education programs are designed to increase knowledge about depression, suicide and accessing community resources, and to increase understanding and use of intervention skills to help prevent suicide.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) This SAMHSA-funded, national center helps strengthen the suicide prevention efforts of state, tribal, community, and campus suicide prevention organizations and coalitions and organizations that serve populations with high suicide rates.
Yellow Ribbon is a grass-roots, community based, volunteer organization developed to serve youth and the communities that surround them, and to address youth/teen suicide through public awareness, education and training to help communities build new and/or strengthen existing programs. Yellow Ribbon provides a variety of suicide prevention resources.