Risk Factors & Warning Signs

If you’re concerned about someone who is thinking about suicide, it can be hard to understand how to help or what to say. Suicide is preventable. Knowing the risk factors and warning signs can help intervene and make a difference in someone’s life.

Risk Factors For Suicide 

There are various situations that may make someone contemplate taking their life. The risk of suicide tends to be higher when someone has multiple stressors. Common risk factors for suicide include:

  • Mental health:
    • Depression or Bipolar Disorder
    • Alcohol or substance abuse or dependence
    • Schizophrenia
    • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
    • Psychosis
    • Anxiety Disorders
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • Exposure to a suicide death and/or mental illness
  • The loss of a loved one or a beloved pet
  • Relationship problems such as a break-up, violence, or loss
  • Bullying (home/work/school/online)
  • Cultural and religious beliefs such as a belief that suicide is noble 'way out' of a personal problem
  • Stigma associated with mental illness or help-seeking
  • Social determinants of health (i.e., housing, food insecurity, unemployment, disability, gender, race, social exclusion and education)

Common Warning Signs of Suicide

Increasing use of alcohol and substances

Changes in mood (depressed, withdrawn, angry)

Getting affairs in order and giving away valued possessions

Showing a marked change in behaviour or attitudes

Losing interest in usual activities, personal appearance, belongings, socializing, friends or a loss of the ability to feel pleasure

Making statements such as:

“What’s the use?”,
“I can’t take it anymore.”,
“I might as well be dead.”,
“You’re better off without me.”,
“Nobody cares if I’m here.”

Expressing helplessness, worthlessness, and/or hopelessness

Changing sleep habits or insomnia or loss of appetite

Talking about wanting to kill themselves, saying they wish they were dead and talking about a specific plan

Feeling trapped, desperate, or needing to escape from an intolerable situation

Becoming socially isolated and withdrawn from friends, family, and others

Feeling scared and uncertain about the future

Suicide Prevention in the Workplace