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Suicide Risk Factors and Warning Signs

Identify suicide risk factors and warning signs, and learn about what to do if you or someone you know displays them
Suicide risk factors and warning signs

“Every suicide is a tragedy, and to some degree a mystery.”

When people no longer have hope during difficult times, some might consider suicide as a way out. All the thoughts that stress and worry, all of the problems weighing them down; poof, gone in an instant.

But suicide is an irreversible, permanent solution to a temporary problem.

If only we viewed our life from an outsider’s perspective we’d know just how blind to other options we were, seeing only suicide as an available option.

Suicide risk factors

The World Health Organization defines risk factors as “an attribute, characteristic or exposure of an individual that increases the likelihood of developing a disease or injury.” In simpler terms, risk factors are stimuli that increase the probability of suicide. These include:

  • Mental health conditions, like depression, BPD, schizophrenia, etc.

  • Substance and alcohol abuse

  • Prior suicide attempts

  • Impulsiveness

  • Family history of suicide and/or self-harm

  • Chronic pain

  • Childhood trauma

  • Personal history of self-harm

  • Prolonged stressors

  • Exposure to suicide ideation/other’s suicide/media

  • Feelings of being a burden/inability to confide in others

  • Access to lethal means

  • Inaccessibility to healthcare, particularly mental healthcare

  • Financial/academic difficulties, abuse and other sorts of stressors present

Suicide warning signs

A warning sign is a signal that is suggestive of a condition that requires special attention. It is a behavior that indicates someone might be at an immediate risk of suicide.

The American Foundation of Suicide groups various suicide warning signs into three main areas:


  • Feelings of being a burden to others and being �trapped’

  • Speaking of helplessness and hopelessness

  • Experiencing unbearable pain

  • Having �no reason to live’

  • Speaking of suicide and/or self-harm

  • Poor problem solving


  • Increased substance use and abuse

  • Recklessness

  • Access to lethal means

  • Isolation

  • Insomnia or hypersomnia

  • Disturbances in eating patterns

  • Saying �goodbyes’ to loved ones

  • Giving up their valued possessions

  • Loss of interest in hobbies and daily activities

  • Hopelessness


  • Depression

  • Rage

  • Irritability

  • Anxiety

  • Impulsiveness

  • Despair

  • Humiliation

  • Sudden peacefulness

  • Shame

As quoted from MedicalNewsToday, “Suicidal ideation means thinking about or planning suicide. These thoughts can range from a detailed plan to a fleeting consideration. It does not include the final act of suicide.

Suicidal thoughts are common in stressful situations and are usually temporary, built upon a desperate need to do something impulsive or to get out of a situation. However, if the warning signs and risk factors of suicide are prominent for an individual, this may suggest that immediate intervention is needed.

Anyone who has suicidal thoughts should seek help. If a loved one is having these thoughts, measures should be taken to help and protect them. Every life matters - including yours.

Suicide prevention

If someone you know is at immediate risk of suicide, harm to themselves and/or others, please:

  • Call the local emergency number

  • Stay in touch, physically or virtually (on phone, etc.) until professional help arrives

  • Removing any potentially harming object around the person in consideration

  • Listen to the person without judgment and allow them to realize you’re there with them

If you or someone you know are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

If you or a loved one demonstrates any suicide warning signs, reach out to a mental health professional for help. National and Global hotlines are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you find support or care.

To quote Alan Cohen, “To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now.”

For more information on crisis support, click here.For non-crisis support, join our empathetic community, chat with a trained emotional support listener, or start affordable online therapy today.


Posted: 10 September 2019
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Simran Singh

Simran is an aspiring Counselling Psychologist based in India who has been writing stories since she was 13.

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