Identifying Potential Suicidal Behavior
More than four times as many men as women die by suicide 3; but women attempt suicide more often during their lives than do men 4. Suicide rates are highest among the elderly, particularly older white males. Over 70 percent of older suicide victims have visited their primary care physician within the month of their death, many did not tell their doctor that they were depressed nor did the doctor detect depression symptoms.5
Other risk factors include:
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- History of mental disorders, particularly depression
- History of alcohol and substance abuse
- Family history of suicide
- Family history of child maltreatment
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- 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 suicidal thoughts
- Cultural and religious beliefs—for instance, the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
- Local epidemics of suicide
- Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
Sometimes people will give clues or warning signs that they need help, but from time to time no warning signs are given or recognized. Some warning signs include:
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Talking, writing or hinting about suicide
- Previous attempts
- Making statement about hopelessness and helplessness
- Putting personal affairs in order
If someone you care about is exhibiting warning signs it does not guarantee that they are contemplating suicide. If you are concerned that someone may at risk, particularly if they are exhibiting warning signs, take the initiative to ask what is troubling them and be persistent to help them overcome any reluctance they may have talking to you. If they are feeling suicidal, it can come as a great relief to know that someone else has some insight into how they feel.1
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers information on suicide Risk Factors, Warning Signs, Protective Factors, and tips on what to do when you suspect someone may be at risk for suicide.
Veterans Self-Check Quiz
This is a confidential and easy way to learn whether stress and depression might be affecting you. Complete the online quiz and a VA Chat Counselor will review it. The Counselor will leave you a personal response with options for follow-up if it’s felt that could be helpful.
- Modified from HealthyPlace.com, Suicide FAQ.
- Modified from the National Institute of Mental Health, Frequently Asked Questions about Suicide.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (producer). Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. (2004).
- Krug EG, Dahlberg LL, Mercy JA, Zwi AB, Lozano R, editors. World report on violence and health [serial online]. 2004 May.
- Department of Health and Human Services, The Surgeon General's call to action to prevent suicide. Washington (DC): Department of Health and Human Services; 1999.