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Resources for Talking About Suicide

Suicide Risk Factors

Certain risk factors can increase a person’s risk for suicide. Keep in mind that recognizing these factors in yourself or others does not automatically mean you are suicidal or that someone is considering suicide.
Article Length: Medium
LGBTQ youth sitting alone with a phone with text messages on the home screen

We all can recognize and reduce the risk of suicide.

Certain risk factors can increase a person’s risk for suicide. Keep in mind that recognizing these factors in yourself or others does not automatically mean you are suicidal or that someone is considering suicide.

Recognizing the Risk of Suicide


  • History or signs of depression
  • History of mental illness
  • History of being abused or mistreated
  • History of self-injury
  • Tendency to be impulsive
  • Major physical illness
  • Affective disorders (i.e. mood disorders)
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)


  • Barriers to mental health services
  • Lack of community support
  • Homelessness
  • A death or relationship breakup
  • A job loss or change in financial security
  • Feeling unsafe
  • Family history of suicide
  • High stress family environment or dynamic
  • Academic or family crisis
  • Easy access to lethal materials


  • Risky health behaviors (e.g. substance abuse, unsafe sex practices, etc.)
  • Lack of support from other youth
  • Cultural or religious beliefs that suggest suicide as a solution
  • Exposure to suicide through the media, family, friends or co-workers
  • Unwillingness to seek help
  • Non-suicidal self-injury
  • Victimization at home or in school
  • Difficulty in school, failing grades, bullying others

Reducing the Risk of Suicide

There are many ways to lower someone’s risk of suicide, such as having:

  • Easy access to effective, culturally competent care
  • Support from medical and mental health care professionals
  • Coping, problem solving and conflict resolution skills
  • Restricted access to highly lethal means of suicide (e.g. firearms)
  • Strong connections to family members
  • Connectedness to safe schools
  • Academic, artistic, athletic achievements
  • Nonviolent problem solving and conflict resolution
  • Family acceptance for their sexual orientation and/or gender identity
  • A feeling of safety, support and connectivity at school through peer groups like Gay-Straight Alliances
  • Positive connections with friends who share similar interests
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide
  • Positive role models and self esteem

CDC, 2010-2011

American Association of Suicidology. (2010). Youth Suicidal Behavior Fact Sheet Based on 2010 Data. Washington, DC: American Association of Suicidology.

Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (2008). Suicide risk and prevention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender youth. Newton, MA: Education Development Center, Inc.

Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program

American Psychological Association (APA)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2011

Borowsky, I.W., Ireland, M., & Resnick, M.D. (2001). Adolescent suicide attempts: Risks and protectors. Pediatrics. 107(3), 485-493.

Eisenberg, M.E. & Resnick, M.D. (2006). Suicidality among gay, lesbian and bisexual youth: The role of protective factors. Journal of Adolescent Health. 39, 662-668.

Fenaughty, J. & Harre, N. (2003). Life on the seesaw: A qualitative study of suicide resiliency factors for young gay men. Journal of Homosexuality. 45(1), 1-22.

Goodenow, C., Szalacha, L. & Westheimer, K. (2006). School support groups, other school factors, and the safety of sexual minority adolescents. Psychology in the Schools. 43(5), 573-589.

Kidd, S., Henrich, C.C., Brookmeyer, K.A., Davidson, L., King, R.A. & Shahar, G. (2006). The social context of adolescent suicide attempts: Interactive effects of parent, peer and school social relations. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. 36(4), 386-395.

Meyer, R.E., Salzman, C., Youngstrom, E.A., Clayton P.J., Goodwin, F.K., Mann, J.J. … Sheehan, D.V. (2010). Suicidality and risk of suicide – definition, drug safety concerns, and a necessary target for drug development: A brief report. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 71(8), 1040-1046.

Resnick, M.D., Bearman, P.S., Blum, R.W., Bauman, K.E., Harris, K.M., Jones, J. … & Urdy, J.R. (1997). Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the national longitudinal study on adolescent health. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 278(10).


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