Suicide Risk & Protective Factors

Some factors do exist that may put people at a higher risk for suicide. The presence of a single risk factor doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is at high risk of suicide, but a number of risk factors together should signal concern. In addition, the presence of depression or bipolar disorder, hopelessness, and/or substance abuse, in combination with other risk factors, increases an individual’s risk of suicide significantly.

Risk Factors

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Mental disorders-particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
  • Co-occurring mental and alcohol and substance abuse disorders
  • Family history of suicide
  • Hopelessness, thoughts and feelings of being a burden to others
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment when it is needed
  • Relational, social, work, or financial loss
  • Major physical illness
  • Easy access to lethal methods, especially guns
  • Lack of connectedness, social support, or a sense of isolation
  • Substance abuse
  • History of trauma or abuse, particularly sexual abuse
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Losing a loved one to suicide
  • Bullying, harassment, or victimization by peers
  • Persistent serious family conflict

Protective Factors

While the presence of multiple risk factors can put someone at a higher risk for suicide, the presence of multiple protective factors can help reduce risk of suicidal behavior. The more protective qualities a person has, the lower their risk for suicide.

  • Strong problem solving skills
  • Positive self-image
  • Spiritual life/faith
  • Close family relationships
  • Strong peer support systems
  • Involvement in hobbies or activities
  • Community connectedness
  • Access to treatment
  • Restricted access to means

Source:, Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline