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  • Writer's pictureMallory Fuller

Suicide Prevention: Risk Factors

Hi friends! Welcome back to the Happy Heart Blog! I am so glad you are here because today I am providing you with some educational information that could help you recognize when someone is struggling. Last month, I posted the warning signs of suicide, but today I wanted to highlight some of the risk factors that could be associated with suicidal thoughts.

I would like to note that all of this information is taken straight from The Jason Foundation website. I am not a mental health professional and feel as though the Jason Foundation has explained these risk factors far better than I could. I want to provide you all with factual information so that you can be equipped with tools that could potentially save a life. I highly encourage you to check out The Jason Foundation website here. They provide so many incredible resources for teens, educators, and parents! No matter who you are, there is a resource for you on their website.

According to the Jason Foundation, “Suicide does not typically have a sudden onset. There are a number of stressors that can contribute to a youth’s anxiety and unhappiness, increasing the possibility of a suicide attempt.” Below are some risk factors that could potentially be a sign of suicidal thoughts:

  • Depression, Mental Illness, or substance abuse

    • “One of the most telling risk factors for youth is mental illness. Mental or addictive disorders are associated with 90% of suicides. One in ten youth suffer from mental illness serious enough to be impaired, yet fewer than 20 percent receive treatment. In fact, 60% of those who complete suicide suffer from depression. Alcohol and drug use, which clouds judgment, lowers inhibitions, and worsens depression, are associated with 50-67% of suicides.” (JFI)

  • Aggression and Fighting

    • “Recent research has identified a connection between interpersonal violence and suicide. Suicide is associated with fighting for both males and females, across all ethnic groups, and for youth living in urban, suburban, and rural areas.” (JFI)

  • Home Environment

    • “Within the home, a lack of cohesion, high levels of violence and conflict, a lack of parental support and alienation from and within the family.” (JFI)

  • Community Environment

    • “Youth with high levels of exposure to community violence are at serious risk for self-destructive behavior. This can occur when a youth models his or her own behavior after what is experienced in the community. Additionally, more youth are growing up without making meaningful connections with adults, and therefore are not getting the guidance they need to help them cope with their daily lives.” (JFI)

  • School Environment

    • “Youth who are struggling with classes, perceive their teachers as not understanding them or caring about them, or have poor relationships with their peers have increased vulnerability.” (JFI)

  • Previous Attempts

    • “Youth who have attempted suicide are at risk to do it again. In fact, they are eight times more likely than youth who have never attempted suicide to make another suicide attempt.” (JFI)

  • Cultural Factors

    • “Changes in gender roles and expectations, issues of conformity and assimilation, and feelings of isolation and victimization can all increase the stress levels and vulnerability of individuals. Additionally, in some cultures (particularly Asian and Pacific cultures), suicide may be seen as a rational response to shame.” (JFI)

  • Family History/Stresses

    • “A history of mental illness and suicide among immediate family members place youth at greater risk for suicide. Exacerbating these circumstances are changes in family structure such as death, divorce, remarriage, moving to a new city, and financial instability.” (JFI)

  • Self-Mutilation

    • “Self-mutilation or self-harm behaviors include head banging, cutting, burning, biting, erasing, and digging at wounds. These behaviors are becoming increasingly common among youth, especially female youth. While self-injury typically signals the occurrence of broader problems, the reason for this behavior can vary from peer group pressure to severe emotional disturbance. Although help should be sought for any individual who is causing self-harm, an appropriate response is crucial. Because most self-mutilation behaviors are not suicide attempts, it is important to be cautious when reaching out to the youth and not to make assumptions.” (JFI)

  • Situational Crises

    • “Approximately 40% of youth suicides are associated with an identifiable precipitating event, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a valued relationship, parental divorce, or sexual abuse. Typically, these events coincide with other risk factors.” (JFI)

It’s important to note that just because someone presents with these risk factors does not automatically mean they are considering suicide. This is why it is so important for us to reach out to the people around us when we see these signs. If you think someone may be considering suicide, it’s so important to ask. By doing this we have the ability to help them find the help they so desperately need.

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