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Suicide Prevention: Risk Factors, Warning Signs, and Seeking Help

September 4th marks the beginning of Suicide Prevention Week. Suicide prevention is a critical component of mental health awareness and is essential in addressing our nation’s ongoing mental health crisis. While identifying the warning signs and knowing the risk factors are important, a new focus on the protective factors is changing the discussion around suicide prevention.

Knowing The Risk Factors and the Warning Signs

Risk factors are specific conditions, characteristics, or circumstances that may lead to an increased risk of suicide. Changes in one’s mood or behavior often accompany these risk factors. Knowing the risk factors and how to spot the warning signs can lead to early intervention – possibly saving a life. Here are some risk factors and warning signs linked to suicide.

Key Risk Factors
  • Health
    • Mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or mood disorders
    • A traumatic brain injury
    • A family history of suicide


  • Environmental
    • Prolonged stress, bullying, unemployment, or relationship problems
    • A stressful life event like divorce, financial crisis, or losing a loved one
    • Exposure to a recent suicide or traumatic life event


Key Warning Signs
  • Change in Behavior
    • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
    • Becoming isolated and withdrawn from social activities, family, and friends


  • Changes In Mood
    • Loss of interest in hobbies or enjoyed activities.
    • Expressing feelings of hopelessness, having no reason to live, or talking about suicide.


Early Intervention with Protective Factors

While knowing the risk factors and warning signs is essential, a newer focus on the protective factors of suicide is changing the discussion. Protective factors are factors that can reduce the risk of suicide. They’re divided into four categories, starting at the individual level and ending at the societal level. Education and implementation of these protective factors can reduce suicidal thoughts or actions. Here are some individual, relationship, and community protective factors.

  • Developing effective coping mechanisms, resiliency, and critical thinking skills
  • Identifying what your reasons are for living – meaning of life.


  • Seek support from a friend, family, or partner when you’re struggling
  • Develop meaningful, healthy connections with others that are not conditional


  • Find connections at your school, religious center, or other social institution
  • Seek consistent, high-quality mental, physical, and behavioral healthcare options


Seeking Help

There are resources available if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a 24/7, 365 resource you can call, text, or chat with. When you do, you will connect with a trained counselor who listens to you, talks with you, and links you to additional resources if needed.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

Additional Resources

Suicide Prevention Resources | Suicide | CDC

Suicide Prevention Resources | AFSP

Resources – Speaking Of Suicide: Speaking of Suicide

Additional Sources

Risk and Protective Factors | Suicide | CDC

Suicide Data and Statistics | Suicide | CDC

Risk Factors, Protective Factors, and Warning Signs | AFSP