Risk Factors & Warning Signs

It is important to understand the difference between risk factors and warning signs for suicide. Risk factors indicate that someone is at heightened risk for suicide, but indicate little or nothing about immediate risk. Warning signs indicate an imminent risk of suicide and may require prompt intervention.

Risk Factors

Risk factors are stressful events, situations, or conditions that exist in a person’s life that may increase the likelihood of them attempting or dying by suicide. It is important to understand that risk factors DO NOT cause suicide.

Health Factors

  • Mental health conditions (particularly depression, mood disorder, personality disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, or psychosis lasting over two weeks)
  • Serious physical health conditions including pain
  • Traumatic brain injury

Environmental Factors

  • Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
  • Prolonged stress, such as 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

Historical Factors

  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma

Although risk factors generally contribute to long-term risk, immediate stressors—so-called tipping points—may create the final impetus for the suicidal act. Tipping points may include relationship problems or break-ups, financial hardships, legal difficulties, public humiliation or shame, worsening medical prognosis, and other stressful events.

Sources: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Suicide Prevention Resource Center


Warning Signs

Some behaviors may indicate that a person is at immediate risk for suicide. The following three should prompt you to immediately call either Fond du Lac County Crisis Intervention at (920)929-3535, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or a mental health professional.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

Other behaviors may also indicate a serious risk—especially if the behavior is new, has increased, and/or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. These include:

  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

Source: Suicide Prevention Resource Center