Risk, Warnings & Protective Factors

 

 

Risk Factors:

 

  • Family history of suicide

  • Family history of child maltreatment

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)

  • History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression

  • History of alcohol and substance abuse

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies

  • Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)

  • Local epidemics of suicide

  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people

  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment

  • Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)

  • Physical illness

  • Easy access to lethal methods

  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts

 

Risk Factors for Suicide

 

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

 

Warning Signs of Acute Risk:

 

  • Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and or,

  • Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,

  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.

 

Additional Warning Signs:

 

  • Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use

  • No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life

  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time

  • Feeling trapped - like there's no way out

  • Hopelessness

  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society

  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge

  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking

  • Dramatic mood changes

Some common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following.

 

  • Excessive worrying or fear

  • Feeling excessively sad or low

  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning

  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria

  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger

  • Avoiding friends and social activities

  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people

  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy

  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite

  • Changes in sex drive

  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective reality)

  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)

  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs

  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)

  • Thinking about suicide

  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress

  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance (mostly in adolescents)

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)

Protective Factors

This is not a Crisis Line or Crisis Site.  If you have an emergency call 911 or the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at 1-800-715-4225

© 2003 SPAN-GA

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