If you are experiencing a crisis, call 911, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text 'START' to 741741.

Risk Factors & Warning Signs

From a medical standpoint, there is no single cause for suicide. Suicide is most often associated with depression that has gone undiagnosed in an individual. Some studies state that as many as 90% of deaths by suicide are caused by diagnosed mental illnesses or mental disorders. While this is a hard number to prove concretely, even half of that number would considerably reduce the suicide rate in society if we considered mental wellness to be as important as we do physical wellness.

Conditions like depression and mental illnesses that lead to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, especially when untreated, can increase the risk for suicidal ideation.


Most people who attempt suicide exhibit clear warning signs, but they do not always.

Be on the lookout for discussion of things like:

  • Wanting to die
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped, or hopeless
  • Being worthless or having little value

Be vigilant of the following moods:

  • Depression
  • Anguish
  • Rage
  • Anxiety
  • Humiliation
  • Irritability

Be wary of the following behaviors:

  • Preoccupation with death
  • Looking for ways to kill themselves (e.g. searching online for materials or instruction, joining suicide-related discussion groups)
  • Isolation from others
  • Out of character behavior or completely new behaviors
  • Unnecessary risks, self-destructive behavior and recklessness
  • Visiting or saying goodbye to people; Delivering messages of love and admiration that are out of character
  • Making end of life arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order; giving away possessions
  • Loss of interest in things once cared about or withdrawing from normal activities
  • Sleeping too much or not enough; changes in sleeping habits
  • Aggression

Some health factors can also increase risk of suicidal ideation:

  • Mental health conditions
    • Depression
    • Bipolar disorder/Manic depressive disorder
    • Borderline personality disorder
    • Antisocial personality disorder
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Psychotic disorders
      • Schizophrenia
      • Shizoaffective disorder
      • Schizophreniform disorder
      • Brief psyhcotic disorder
      • Shared psychotic disorder
      • Substance-induced psychotic disorder
      • Paraphrenia
      • Other psychotic disorders due to another medical conditions
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Serious or chronic health condition
  • Serious or chronic pain

The following environmental factors are also known to raise risk of suicide:

  • Distressing life events (Loss of job, bereavement, or divorce)
  • Mental stress factors such as bullying, harrassment, relationship issues, or prolonged unemployment
  • Access to means such as firearms or lethal doses of drugs
  • Exposure to another person’s suicide or graphic or sensationalized retelling of suicide

There are also a couple of historical factors that can increase risk of suicide:

  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Genetic predisposition or family history of suicide
  • Genetic predisposition or family history of mental illness
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