Risk Factors

Many of the risk factors for suicide can be found by reading the statistics, but the underlying causes are not always so evident. Loss is the lurker — loss of health, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or any other significant loss. Any of these can be the precursor to depression.

When people turn to drugs and alcohol to help them cope with this loss, the low feelings just get worse. If you, or someone you love, has had a recent loss, be especially aware of how this may impact mental health and take appropriate measures to get help.


Life and loss are partners. All of us go through life experiencing a series of goodbyes. When the loss is more than you can cope with at the moment, you may feel the symptoms of depression. Professional help is available to help you get through those feelings.

Secondary Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions, or the medications used to treat them, can result in depression that may lead to thoughts of suicide. The realization of compromised health and possibly long-term diminished physical capacity may initially lead to feelings of despondency.

Chronic illness may result in chronic depression, or dysthymia. Without treatment, antidepressants, and/or psychotherapy, these thoughts may progress to the point that the individual begins to consider suicide. If you have a chronic condition, you don't need to wrestle with depression as well.

Talk to your primary health care provider about your options. You need all the resources you can muster to help you through.

How can I make my home suicide-proof?

The answer is, you can't. Someone who is determined to take his or her life will find a way. All you can do is secure your home to the best of your ability and realize that you are not at fault, should the worst happen.

Access to Lethal Means

It isn't possible to remove every possible potential harmful device from the home, so it's essential to be vigilant. Weapons or other substances, when abused, may provide a determined person with a means of committing suicide. Weapons may include firearms, rope, poison, and materials able to be used in asphyxiation. Again, gender plays a role.

When there is a heightened possibility of a suicide attempt, firearms should be made inaccessible. Particularly for women with severe depression, be concerned if you see signs of hoarding prescription medications until there are enough to commit suicide by overdosing.

A Previous Attempt

Someone who has tried to commit suicide at some point in the past should be considered at risk for making another attempt in the future. People do create patterns, whether for good or bad. So, if you have prior knowledge, you can expect that this behavior may occur again, given a specific set of circumstances. In this case, past attempts may be an indicator of future attempts.

An Impulsive Personality

People who tend to act without regard to the consequences of their actions may be at increased risk for suicide, when depressed. This characteristic appears to have more influence in adolescent suicide attempts than in adult attempts. Spur of the moment decisions, in these cases, may have permanent consequences.


Risk behaviors may be associated with impulsive personalities. If your teenager drives recklessly, consumes alcohol, or exhibits other tendencies that worry you, be vigilant.

Increased Alcohol and Drug Use

If you drink socially, and as a means of relaxing after the workday, you may not see alcohol as a problem. However, alcohol is a depressant, and its effects on the body are considerable. For people coping with depression, alcohol can be a double-edged sword. It may interfere and interact with antidepressants, and it may complicate mood patterns — and not for the better. Alcohol can dull the inhibitions, and for someone contemplating suicide, this may result in a loss of perspective.

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