Risk Factors & Protective Factors

A history of mental health conditions, like:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Substance Abuse Disorders

A history of:

  • Self-injury
  • Chronic disease and/or disability
  • Chronic pain
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Prolonged stress resulting from 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
  • Experienced trauma or a traumatic event
  • Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of access to behavioral health care
  • Homelessness
  • Feeling unsafe
  • High stress family environment or dynamic
  • Academic or family crisis
  • Risky health behaviors (e.g. substance abuse, unsafe sex practices, etc.)
  • Cultural or religious beliefs that suggest suicide is a solution
  • Unwillingness to seek help
  • Victimization, at home or at school, for example
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma

Risk factors can vary by age group, culture, sex, and other characteristics.


Certain risk factors affect Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual and/or Ally youth and make them high risk for suicide. They often experience stress resulting from prejudice and discrimination (family rejection, bullying, violence).

Native Americans

Many Native Americans experience historical trauma resulting from resettlement, and destruction of cultures and economies which contributes to the high rate of suicide in this population.

Middle-Aged Men

Men in the middle years may experience stressors that challenge traditional male roles, such as unemployment and divorce.

Protective factors are personal or environmental characteristics that help protect people from suicide.

  • Accessible, culturally competent and effective behavioral health care, including being proactive about mental health
  • ConnectednessΒ to individuals, family, community, and social institutions
  • Life skillsΒ (including problem solving skills and coping skills, ability to adapt to change, conflict resolution)
  • Self-esteem and a sense of purpose or meaning in life
  • Cultural, religious, or personal beliefs that discourage suicide and encourage connecting and help-seeking, discourage suicidal behavior, or create a strong sense of purpose or self-esteem
  • Restricted access to highly lethal means (e.g. firearms)
  • Connectedness to safe and supportive schools
  • Academic, artistic and athletic achievements
  • Positive role models

For more information about suicide risk and protective factors, check out the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention!