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Pennsylvania Adult/Older Adult Suicide Prevention Coalition

AOASPC is a resource, not a hotline or counseling center

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Warning Signs & Risk Factors

Warning Signs

  • Talking about suicide, wanting to die, kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling worthless, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Suddenly happier and calmer, especially after a period of depression or sadness
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Getting affairs in order, making arrangements
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Acting anxiously or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

Risk Factors

  • Diagnosis of Depression
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Loss of job, home, money
  • Death or terminal illness of a loved one
  • Divorce or loss of major, significant relationship
  • Loss of health, either real or imagined
  • Someone close to the person has completed suicide
  • Recent disappointment or rejection
  • Being expelled from school/fired from job
  • Sudden loss of freedom/fear of punishment
  • Victim of assault or bullying

Social and Cultural Risk Factors

Some ethnic groups and races are at higher risk. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, Non-Hispanic Whites and Native Americans had the highest rates of suicide in 2004, while Non-Hispanic African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics had lower rates. Cultural and social risks include:

  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Stigma associated with seeking help for one's (mental or emotional) problems
  • Barriers to accessing health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Certain cultural and religious beliefs
  • Influence of others who have died by suicide

Biological and Psychological Risk Factors

A history of mental health disorders, particularly depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, place an individual at a higher risk for suicidal behavior. Other risks include:

  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Major physical illnesses or chronic pain
  • Previous suicide attempt

Environmental Risk Factors

A job loss or financial loss can set off a sequence of emotional events that put an individual at greater risk for suicide. Other environmental risks include:

  • Relational or social loss, such as a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Easy access to lethal means, such as guns and firearms. However, this can also include poisons and prescription medications
  • Local clusters of copycat suicides

If you, a friend or loved one is depressed, seek professional help. There is also a test you can take on the Internet, which can help you to determine whether you or someone you know needs help. The test isn't a substitute for a physician's diagnosis, but it is a pretty good indicator of whether or not it's time to go to the doctor to be examined. Visit Mental Health America to take a depression screening.

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