There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide. Yet it’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life.
Risk factors are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take their life.
Mental health conditions
Substance use problems
Personality traits of aggression, mood changes and poor relationships
Serious physical health conditions including pain
Traumatic brain injury
Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment
Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, other life transitions or loss
Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide
Previous suicide attempts
Family history of suicide
Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma
Access to mental health care, and being proactive about mental health
Feeling connected to family and community support
Problem-solving and coping skills
Limited access to lethal means
Cultural and religious beliefs that encourage connecting and help-seeking, discourage suicidal behavior, or create a strong sense of purpose or self-esteem
Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.
If a person talks about:
Having no reason to live
Being a burden to others
Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
Withdrawing from activities
Isolating from family and friends
Sleeping too much or too little
Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Giving away prized possessions
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
Loss of interest
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicide ideation, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (24-hour support).
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