Risk Factors and
Warning signs, &
How to Help

Suicide Risk Factors

Health Risk Factors

Mental Health Conditions
•Depression
•Bipolar
•Schizophrenia
•Anxiety Disorders
•Substance Abuse Disorders
•Serious or Chronic Health
condition and/or pain

Environmental Risk Factors

•Experienced trauma or a traumatic event •Stressful life events (death, divorce, sexual abuse, physical abuse, job loss)
•Prolonged stress factors (bullying, harassment, relationship problems)
•Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
•Exposure to another person’s suicide

Historical Risk Factors

•Previous suicide attempts
•Family history of suicide attempts/completion

Warning signs of Suicide

Warning signs may not always be the most obvious. Some people who are depressed or feeling suicidal may have “high functioning depression”. In other words, some people look like “they have it all together” on the outside, however that may not always be the case. Note that depression looks different for everyone.
Warning signs may not always be the most obvious. Some people who are depressed or feeling suicidal may have “high functioning depression”. In other words, some people look like “they have it all together” on the outside, however that may not always be the case. Note that depression looks different for everyone.

Warning Signs
of Suicide

  • Threatening to hurt or kill themselves.
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness.
  • Phrases like:
    • “I feel like I’m drowning”
    • “I am a burden to others”
    • “Everyone would be better off if I weren’t here”
    • “I feel like giving up”
    • “I feel trapped”
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, or society.
  • Sleeping all of the time, or sleeping too little.
  • Being anxious or agitated.
  • Giving away prized possessions.
  • Increase in substance use.
  • Talking or writing about death.
  • Seeking access to pills, weapons, or other means to kill themselves.
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities.

(Source: Mental Health First Aid, 2016)

Giving Help

  • Listen without judgement
  • If you think someone may be suicidal, ask the person, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” This question DOES NOT suddenly put the idea of suicide in their head. If anything, this question helps to release stress and will help the person open up about their thoughts and feelings.
    • Ask if they have a plan.
    • Seek immediate and professional help.
  • Tell the person you are concerned and that you want to help.
  • Ask questions to show you genuinely care and want to understand.
  • Ask yourself about and look into potential risk factors:
    • Has this person been using alcohol and other drugs?
    • Has this person made a suicide attempt in the past?
  • You should NEVER agree to keep the risk of suicide a secret.

What to Say vs What Not To Say

Avoid:

  • Chin up! You’ll be fine.
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • I know exactly how you feel.
  • It’s really not that bad.
  • Stop stressing.

What to say:

  • I’m sorry you feel this way.
  • This must be very difficult for you, I can’t imagine how you’re feeling.
  • I’m here if you’d like to talk.
  • What can I do to help you?
  • I’m not sure what to say right now, I’m just so glad you told me.

Empathy is feeling WITH people.
Empathy Vs Sympathy Video, by Brene Brown

*Keep in mind, you don’t need to know exactly what to say! Sometimes it is hard when people tell us deep feelings.
The best thing you can do is listen and take care of yourself/debrief afterwards.