What You Need to Know About Suicide Risk
Prevention and Warning Signs
Updated October 2023
No matter your income, gender, profession or stage in life, suicide has no rules, limits or guidelines.
"In recent years, we've seen more people experiencing isolation, fear, stigma, substance use and anxieties," says John E. Franklin, MD, MSc, MA, a psychiatrist at Northwestern Medicine. "These can increase underlying suicide risk related to psychiatric disorders, personal loss, trauma and toxic stress, which in some individuals leads to suicidal thoughts and behavior. While we saw some slowing of suicide rates in 2019 and 2020, we again saw an increase in 2021 and 2022."
Dr. Franklin says other risk factors for suicidal behavior include:
- Family history of suicide or mental health problems. Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and suicide suggest a possible biological or genetic connection to a person's risk for attempting or completing suicide.
- Untreated mental health conditions. Many individuals who die by suicide have a history of mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety or substance use.
- A stressful life event, such as losing a job or divorce. An individual may see these problems as insurmountable and unsolvable, and experience the pain as unendurable.
- A breakdown in social support, either from their family or the larger community. This lack of support can leave someone feeling alienated or alone, and they may come to believe that others won't care or "will be better off" without them. When this happens, typical coping strategies aren't effective, and feelings of hopelessness can take over.
Prevention and Crisis Interventions
Many evidence-based treatment and prevention programs have been developed over the years, as well as school- and community-based programs that provide education, screening and rapid referrals for care.
Psychotherapy is also proven to be effective for helping individuals who are experiencing thoughts of death and suicide. Also stay engaged with yourself, your community and your loved ones. This can create a mutual bond and help promote healthy connections.
Be aware of the signs of depression and risk factors for suicide, and take them seriously. If you are concerned about a friend or family member, offer them support and encourage them to seek the help of a mental health professional.
Providing support and hope for a positive future are part of the solution, and just being there to talk or listen can be helpful.
Be Aware of Yourself and Those Around You
If you notice someone you love has a sudden change in mood, is expressing suicidal ideation or is experiencing depression, or if you're experiencing feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of harming yourself, please call the 988 Lifeline, which provides:
- No-cost confidential support for people in distress
- Prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones
- Best practices for U.S. healthcare professionals
The lifeline is available at all hours of the day and week. You can also visit the nearest emergency department, dial 911 or seek the help of a mental health professional.
No matter what, you are not alone. There is help.