Suicide Prevention: Risks, Warnings, and Protective Factors

Suicide Prevention: Risks, Warnings, and Protective Factors

September is Suicide Prevention Month, so let’s take this time to pay special attention and foster awareness of this serious social issue.

The American Psychiatric Association and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center ( outlines “Risk Factors, Warning Signs and Protective Factors” and five steps to take in support of a loved one who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Risk Factors to Look for in Suicide Prevention

“Risk Factors” include a list of conditions that may “increase the risk of suicide”, and Some of those outlined range from “previous suicide attempts”, “substance abuse”, and “mood disorders”, to “bullying”, chronic physical illness , and “historical trauma”. The CDC reports that, “while a mental health condition may be a contributing factor for many people, many factors contribute to suicide among people with and without known mental health conditions.”

Warning Signs of Suicide to Watch For

Which warning signs should we be aware of to determine if someone needs support? “Talking about death, dying or suicide” is one, as well as “withdrawal from friends, family and community.” Talking about being “trapped” or a “burden to others” may be other that you have seen. The compendium of warning signs includes eight according to the American Psychiatric Association. Visit its Suicide Prevention page for more details.

Protective Factors

“Feelings of strong connections to individuals” is listed amongst the “Protective Factors” of suicide prevention. In addition, “Effective mental care” and a “strong sense of cultural identity” are other elements of one’s life that can lead one away from suicidal ideation.

What You Can Do to Support Someone

Consider five steps you can take to support someone who you think is at risk. 988 Suicide Crisis and Lifeline recommends the following five tactics:

  • Ask someone you are concerned about if they’re thinking about suicide. Studies show that asking someone if they are having thoughts of suicide does not increase the likelihood of a completed suicide nor does it increase suicidal thoughts.
  • Be there for them. This could be by phone or in person.
  • Keep them safe. Reduce access to lethal means for those at risk.
  • Help them connect with ongoing support.
  • Follow up. Give them a call or visit. Send a text or an email to let them know that you are still present.

( source)

There is help available at your fingertips. Keep in mind that you can contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988, or chat online at