10 Factors That Boost Suicide Risk
HealthCentral Editorial Team Dec 15, 2011 (updated Sep 27, 2013)
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Being male increases a person's risk for suicide. In fact, experts have found that there is a dramatic difference in men's and women's suicide attempt and completed suicide rates. Men are four times more likely to die from a suicide attempt than women, though women are three times more likely to attempt it in the first place.
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Age is a factor in predicting suicide risk. People who are younger than 19 year old and those who are older than 45 years old have an increased risk of taking their own life.
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As many people know, one of the clearest indicators of suicide risk is the presence of depression. However, the depression must be severe enough to be considered "clinically significant," experts say. Someone who is just going through a "down" time may not meet this criteria.
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Previous suicide attempt
Another risk factor for suicide that is assessed by mental health professionals is the existence of a previous suicide attempt in a person's history. In fact, people who have received mental health services of any kind have a higher suicide risk.
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Excessive alcohol or drug use
People who use alcohol or other drugs excessively have a higher chance of taking their own lives, experts say. In fact, there is ample evidence that alcohol and drug abuse can worsen thoughts of suicide and increase the impulsiveness that often triggers suicide attempts.
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Rational thinking lost
People who have lost the ability to think rationally, to be grounded in reality, or who exhibit symptoms of psychosis have a greater risk of suicide. This may explain why people who have such conditions as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or organic brain syndrome (all of which have psychosis as one of their symptoms) have a higher suicide rate.
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Separated, divorced, or widowed
Evidence suggests that people who are single, divorced, or widowed have an increased suicide risk compared to people who are married or in a steady, long-term relationship. The difference between these two groups is even greater if the partnered person has children. People who have just ended a relationship also have a higher risk of ending their lives.
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Organized suicide plan
People who have an organized and specific plan for taking their own lives are more likely to do it. Experts say the degree of organization in someone's plans can be directly or indirectly revealed by the person "putting affairs in order," visiting healthcare professionals, going to see friends and relatives for "one last visit," writing wills, or composing suicide notes.
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No social support
Experts have found that people who commit suicide often lack regular contact with friends or family, religious support, or jobs that give their lives meaning and meaningful contact with others. People who've just recently lost one or more of these social supports are especially at risk.
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Sickness or chronic medical issue
Though there's little direct evidence that having a chronic health issue leads to suicidal behavior, debilitating and severe illness is thought to be a definite risk factor for suicide. People will often visit a healthcare professional right before attempting suicide, with their illness directly involved in the outcome of the attempt.
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How to get help
If you are suicidal or are concerned about a loved one who you think may be considering ending his or her life, don't lose hope. Help is just a phone call away. Visit the website National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call their 24-hour hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. They have counselors who speak Spanish and other professionals who specifically deal with the issues of military veterans, as well.