Risk Factors & Warning Signs

Risk Factors

Suicide is a very complex issue that rarely can be narrowed down to one single cause.  If someone has one or more of the known risk factors, it is important to be aware and alert, but this does not necessarily mean the individual will attempt suicide.

Social risk factors include: lack of social support, sense of isolation, exposure to others who have died by suicide, and local clusters of suicide. Personal risk factors include: loss of a relationship, job or financial loss, impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies, and easy access to lethal means. History risk factors include: previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide, and history of trauma or abuse. Cultural risk factors include: cultural or religious beliefs, or stigma associated with asking for help. Health risk factors include: major physical illness, mental disorders, alcohol and drug use, or lack of health care.

Warning Signs

It may not always be possible to prevent suicide, but it is possible to recognize the warning signs that may precede a suicide attempt.  Here are some of the signs:

Warning signs regarding a change in mood may include: being anxious or agitated, uncontrollable rage or anger – perhaps seeking revenge on others, depressed or sad, fearful responses such as not wanting to be alone, frequent crying, and sudden mood swings. Warning signs regarding changes in behavior may include: reckless or high-risk activities, too little or too much sleep, and an increase in substance or alcohol use. Warning signs regarding a change in appearance may include: maintaining an unkempt appearance, poor hygiene, sudden weight loss or gain, and appearing more tired than usual. Warning signs regarding a change in performance may include: distracted or preoccupied thought processes, skipping more classes, and a decline in grade point average. Warning signs regarding changes in social interactions may include: withdrawing from peers, family or significant others; they may become isolated and spend an increased amount of time alone. Warning signs regarding a change in focus may include: becoming preoccupied with death or violence, and obsession with violent movies, music, art, or video games. Warning signs regarding changes in outlook may include: hoplessness, saying things like “There is no use in trying,” or “What’s the point?” They may express feeling helpless, feeling trapped, or feeling a lack of purpose.
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