Research has identified risk factors which contribute to problem youth behavior, including substance abuse, violence, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, and suicide (Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992). The same research also identifies protective factors which mitigate these risks and help youth develop healthier lives. For more information about risk and protective factors and prevention in general, check out Prevention Lane, an educational website hosted by Lane County, http://www.preventionlane.org.

What are the risk factors for suicide?

Research has identified many risk factors that are associated with suicide. Below is a list of the most prominent factors that have shown to increase the risk of suicide.

  • Family history of suicide
  • Family history of child maltreatment
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
  • Local epidemics of suicide
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
  • Physical illness
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts
What are the protective factors for suicide?

Below is a list of the protective factors that have that work to buffer individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior. However, protective factors have not been studied as extensively or rigorously as risk factors. Nonetheless identifying and understanding protective factors are equally as important as researching risk factors.

  • Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
  • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking
  • Family and community support (connectedness)
  • Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self-preservation

For more information about the Risk and Protective Factors for suicide visit the Center for Disease Control's website at http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/suicide/index.html.