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PPS Blog

Suicide Prevention: Risk Factors & Warning Signs

Did you know, every day 130 people die by suicide in the United States? Suicide rates have spiked dramatically in young adults since the start of the 2020 pandemic, leaving it the 2nd leading cause of death for those ages 15-24. But it’s not just teenagers; Suicide rates are highest in middle-aged men, who die by suicide nearly 4 times more than women. It’s more important than ever before to be educated about mental health and to stay alert to warning signs of suicidal ideation. As a community, a friend, a family-member, or even a coworker, being aware of the warning signs of suicide could possibly save a life.

Here are some warning signs you can look for:

Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Drastic changes in mood or behavior (changes in routines such as sleep, eating, or grooming habits)

  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated. Cutting oneself off from friends, family, or social settings.

  • Engaging in increasingly risky or reckless behaviors with little concern for one’s own safety and wellbeing.

  • Increased use of substances such as alcohol or drugs.

  • Self-harming, i.e. cutting, burning, starving, or hurting oneself physically in any way.

  • Giving away one’s belongings or important items.

  • Frequently talking about death, suicide plans, or making threats of suicide.

  • Saying goodbye to loved ones via text, call, or in-person.

  • Expressing any of these feelings or thoughts:

o Hopelessness

o Worthlessness

o Feeling trapped or wanting to escape

o Feeling like a burden on others

o Heightened irritability, aggressiveness, or rage

o Saying they have no reason to live

Being familiar with these warning signs is extremely important to react appropriately to someone who may be contemplating suicide. But these warning signs alone don’t get to the root of what causes suicide. Though there is no singular cause of suicide, there are a myriad of risk-factors that can increase the likelihood of an individual dying by suicide. These risk-factors are a combination of mental, physical, and environmental. The more risk-factors an individual has, the more likely they may be to die by suicide. Here are some risk-factors to look out for that can help you be proactive in suicide prevention:

Risk Factors for Suicide

  • Having serious chronic medical conditions or chronic pain

  • Having pre-existing mental health conditions (such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety)

  • History of substance abuse

  • Being exposed to high-stress situations or traumatic life events (such as death of loved one, a serious accident, abuse, divorce, job loss, or bullying)

  • Serious relationship problems

  • Sexual trauma or issues with unsupportive environments regarding sexuality & gender-identity

  • Access to a lethal weapon

  • Exposure to another suicide, whether a friend or family member

  • Having barriers to accessing care such as financial, physical, or otherwise

  • Has attempted suicide before

Often these risk-factors can build on each other over time, creating the perfect environment for suicidal ideation. For example, an individual may already be struggling with depression and begin to abuse substances to cope. This individual may be one traumatic life event away from feeling like they can’t manage living anymore. If you observe one or more of these risk-factors or warning signs in someone you know, ask about it in a gentle, non-confrontational, nonjudgmental way. Openness and empathy regarding mental health and suicide has the power to help suicidal individuals feel like they are not alone and don’t have to hide their thoughts and feelings. All it takes is one understanding person to intercept an impending suicide attempt and save a life.

If you are with an individual who is in active suicidal ideation or in immediate danger of attempting, do not leave the person alone. Remove any and all dangerous items or substances from their vicinity. Call 911 or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

If you or your loved one is ready to start long-term outpatient treatment to manage mental health, call or email Professional Psychiatric Services today.



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