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Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention – Risk Factors

What is a Risk Factor?

Suicide is a complex behavior that is usually caused by a combination of risk factors in the presence of negative life events. The first step in preventing suicide is to identify and understand the risk factors. A risk factor is anything that increases the likelihood that a person will harm himself or herself. However, having these risk factors does not always mean that suicide will occur.
–Adapted from the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center

Most Significant Risk Factors: Depression

Substance Abuse
Previous Suicide Attempt

Other Important Risk Factors:

  • History of mental disorders (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, Depression) Self-injury
  • Self-injury
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide and/or child abuse
  • Loss (death of a loved one, divorce, etc.)
  • Physical illness
  • Easy access to firearms
  • Being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning
  • Bullying/isolation

Suicide Prevention – Facts and Figures


  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 10-24 year olds.
  • Between 1999 and 2010, a total of 38,988 young people aged 10-24 died by suicide, translating to nearly 4,400 deaths in this age group every year.
  • Approximately 149,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at U.S. Emergency Departments each year.
  • There are an estimated 100–200 suicide attempts for each completed suicide among
    young people.


Data from the 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed that in the previous year:

  • 14% of responding US high school students had serious thoughts of killing themselves
  • 11% made a suicide plan
  • 6% attempted suicide
  • 2% made a suicide attempt that required medical attention
  • It is estimated that 13.2 million people were directly affected by a suicide within the previous year.

Demographic Variations in Risk

  • Age: Older adolescents (≥16 years) are more at risk for suicide than younger
    adolescents. This increased risk is attributed to the greater prevalence of psychopathology, especially depression and substance abuse.
  • Gender: More than four times as much male youths (ages 15-19) die by suicide, however, girls attempt suicide two to three times more often than boys.