Risk Factors

​​Suicide is complex and involves several factors that are often not always visible. Knowing risk factors, protective factors and warning signs is a critical step in helping connect someone at risk to the care they may need.


Some of the most common major risk factors include:

  • Prior suicide attempts
  • Mood disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Access to lethal means (access to methods someone could use to kill themselves)
  • Trauma, PTSD or prolonged stress (abuse, bullying)
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Chronic pain
  • Family history of suicide
  • Loss (job, death, financial, relationship, pet, etc.)
  • Life transitions (military to veteran status, job and school changes, relocation, retirement)
  • Legal problems or involvement in a legal issue or judicial system involvement
  • Exposure to clusters of suicide
  • Exposure to another person’s suicide
  • Exposure to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide

In addition to the above risk factors, certain populations are at higher risk of suicide. These include:

  • BIPOC populations
  • LGBTQIA+ community
  • Veterans
  • Youth
  • Connectedness to family, community and social institutions
  • Support for​ seeking help
  • Effective clinical care for underlying mental, physical or substance use disorders and suicidality
  • Skills in problem-solving and conflict resolution
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support self-preservation
  • Contact with caregivers
  • Lethal means safety (in other words, being protected from things or methods that could be used for suicide)

Suicide Prevention Resource Center & Rodgers, P. (2011) Understanding risk and protective factors for suicide: A primer for preventing suicide. Newton, MA: Education Development Center Inc.