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Suicide causes, symptoms, problems and warning signs

There is no single cause for deaths by suicide or suicidal attempts or suicidal thoughts.

Suicides are in response to multiple biological, psychological, interpersonal, environmental and societal influences that interact with one another often over time.

No situation is the same, however, experts and advocates have put together lists of both risk factors and warning signs that could suggest that someone could be feeling suicidal.

Main risk factors for suicide

  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Depression and other mental health disorders
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Family history of a mental health or substance abuse disorder
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home
  • Being in prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as a family member, peer, or media figure
  • Medical illness
  • Being between the ages of 15 and 24 years or over age 60

Suicide or feeling suicidal is connected to both mental health and physical health issues. Depression, anxiety and substance abuse, among other issues can lead to self-destructive thoughts, as can abuse and neglect from childhood, bullying, dating violence, and sexual violence. Military veterans and others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are also at a higher risk for suicide, as are those who have a family history of suicide, had previous suicide attempts or have been exposed to suicide.

Figures from Mental Health America

  • Eight out of 10 people considering suicide give some sign of their intentions, and those who talk about suicide, threaten suicide or call suicide crisis centers are 30 times more likely to kill themselves.
  • Those who are feeling suicidal often do seek help from a professional: 64 percent of people who attempt suicide visit a doctor in the month before their attempt, and 38 percent in the week before.
  • 40 percent of people who die by suicide have made a previous attempt.
  • Those with substance abuse disorders are six times more likely to complete suicide than those without.

If you or someone you know is dealing with any of these stressors or conditions that are considered warning signs or risk factors that can lead to suicidal thoughts, it is important to know that there are resources and help at your disposal. Don’t be afraid to reach out and let others know how you are feeling. A person who shows warning signs of suicide or who is at risk may not be considering suicide, but it is worth addressing because they could be needing help and not know where to turn.

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