15 Risk Factors & Ways to Prevent Suicide

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu

Suicide1 is a serious public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities. While its causes are complex and determined by multiple factors, the goal of suicide prevention is simple: Reduce factors that increase risk (i.e., risk factors) and increase factors that promote resilience (i.e., protective factors). Ideally, prevention addresses all levels of influence: individual, relationship, community, and societal. Effective prevention strategies are needed to promote awareness of suicide and encourage a commitment to social change.  Jay Harold wrote this post, “15 Risk Factors & Ways to Prevent Suicide,” to provide information to deal with a tragedy that killed 47, 173 in 2017  according to the CDC2.

Suicide is the 16th leading cause of death for Black Americans in 2014 according to data from the National Office of Vital Statistics. The video below talks about some risk factor for suicide.

Risk Factors for Suicide

A combination of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are those characteristics associated with suicide—they might not be direct causes.

Risk Factors

  1. A family history of suicide
  2. A family history of child maltreatment
  3. Previous suicide attempt(s)
  4. History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
  5. History of alcohol and substance abuse
  6. Feelings of hopelessness
  7. Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  8. Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
  9. Local epidemics of suicide
  10. Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
  11. Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  12. Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
  13. Physical illness
  14. Easy access to lethal methods
  15. Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or suicidal thoughts


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Protective Factors for Suicide

Protective factors buffer individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior. To date, protective factors have not been studied as extensively or rigorously as risk factors. Identifying and understanding protective factors are, however, equally as important as researching risk factors.

Protective Factors

  • Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
  • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help-seeking
  • Family and community support (connectedness)
  • Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
  • Skills in problem-solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self-preservation

(U.S. Public Health Service 1999)

Suicide and Suicide Attempts Take an Enormous Toll on Society

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among Americans.
  • Nearly 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016.
  • An estimated 1.3 million people made a suicide attempt in the past year.
  • Almost 10 million adults reported having serious thoughts about suicide in the past year.
  • Suicide and self-harm injuries cost society about $70 billion a year in combined medical and work loss costs.


  • A survivor of suicide is a family member or friend of a person who died by suicide.
  • Surviving the loss of a loved one to suicide is a risk factor for suicide.
  • Surviving family members and close friends are deeply impacted by each suicide and experience a range of complex grief reactions, including, guilt, anger, abandonment, denial, helplessness, and shock.
  • No exact figure exists, but it is estimated that between 6 and 32 survivors exist for each suicide, depending on the definition used.
  • According to another estimate, approximately 7% of the U.S. population knew someone who died by suicide during the past 12 months.

15 Risk Factors & Ways to Prevent Suicide

Suicide is a serious but preventable public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities. While the causes of suicide vary, suicide prevention strategies share two goals: to reduce factors that increase risk and to increase factors that promote resilience or coping. Prevention requires a comprehensive approach that occurs at all levels of society—from the individual, family, and community levels to the broader social environment. Effective prevention strategies are needed to promote awareness of suicide, while also promoting prevention, resilience, and a commitment to social change.

CDC’s Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policies, Programs, and Practices[6 MB, 62 Pages, 508] highlights strategies based on the best available evidence to help states and communities prevent suicide. The strategies and their corresponding approaches are listed in the table below.



Preventing Suicide


 suicide strategic supports
  • Strengthen household financial security
  • Housing stabilization policies
 Strengthen access and delivery of suicide care
  • Coverage of mental health conditions in health insurance policies
  • Reduce provider shortages in undeserved areas
  • Safer suicide care through systems change
 Create protective environments
  • Reduce access to lethal means among persons at risk of suicide
  • Organizational policies and culture
  • Community-based policies to reduce excessive alcohol use
 Promote connectedness
  • Peer norm programs
  • Community engagement activities
 Teach coping and problem-solving skills
  • Social-emotional learning programs
  • Parenting skill and family relationship programs
 Identify and support people at risk
  • Gatekeeper training
  • Crisis intervention
  • Treatment for people at risk of suicide
  • Treatment to prevent re-attempts
 Lessen harms and prevent future risk
  • Postvention
  • Safe reporting and messaging about suicide

15 Risk Factors & Ways to Prevent Suicide

Suicide Prevention Resources

Need Help? Know Someone Who Does?

Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use the online Lifeline Crisis ChatContact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Both are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

For more information, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Jay Harold hopes you enjoyed this post, “15 Risk Factors & Ways to Prevent Suicide.” Based on the 2016 National Survey of Drug Use and Mental Health it is estimated that 0.5 percent of the adults aged 18 or older made at least one suicide attempt. This translates to approximately 1.3 million adults. Adult females reported a suicide attempt 1.2 times as often as males.

Please Share it and read more about Jay Harold here.  Please take this advice from  Muhammad Ali and give back to others. “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/index.html
  2. https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr65/nvsr65_05.pdf (Table D, Pg. 12)
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/riskprotectivefactors.html
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/consequences.html

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