across the life span, culture, class, and gender, suicide does not
discriminate. From the wealthy to the less well-to-do, suicidal ideation
can occur to anyone. And while some ailments may be associated to a certain life
stage, age is a convenient but ultimately unreliable indicator of suicide.
How then do
you tell who may be at greater risk of suicide?
Warning signs are usually the first indicators which come to mind. Yet, waiting
till warnings signs become wholly apparent may be too late.
For many, the
thought of taking one’s life doesn’t happen overnight. It is an act that involves
personal physical harm, has the potential to inflict emotional pain on others, and symbolises finality.
action on suicide suggests someone is already at a breaking point. The closer
someone is to their breaking point is also when warning signs become most apparent.
So what about all that time which come before that? How do you know if what someone is currently going through may put them on a path of no return?
Risk Factors vs. Warning Signs
Suicide risk factors are equally important when looking out for those who may be thinking, or who may eventually think, of suicide
warning signs tend to be displayed during a crisis, risk factors are characteristics or conditions which increase the possibility that someone might take their own life.
Importantly, risk factors can still be present even when warning signs
aren’t. They may also be relatively easier to spot and can be spotted earlier in
the suicidal ideation process.
- Usually a historical or prevailing condition
- Increases the probability of a suicidal crisis occurring
- Identified by paying attention to the individual and their environment
- Usually occurs during or as a result of a crisis
- Indicates a suicidal crisis has already begun
- Identified by paying attention to the individual
Risk factors help you know that someone may already not be coping well on their
own. For them, suicide may quickly become a reality if they continue to be left
feeling overwhelmed and unconnected to the support they require.
Common Suicide Risk Factors
- A previous suicide attempt
- Family history of suicide
- Chronic health condition and/or pain
- Intense and sudden loss (financial loss, loss of face, loss of loved ones)
- Mental health conditions
- Distressing life events (divorce, job loss, living alone in a foreign country)
- Prolonged stress factors (abuse, bullying, harassment, unemployment)
- Prolonged social isolation, being ostracised
What then can be done to reduce the possibility of suicide in those at risk? Some risk factors may be countered by resolving the issue at its root. For instance, removing prolonged
stress factors such as abuse or bullying can help decrease an individual’s risk
of suicide. At the same time, protective steps such as building a strong network of support can help us be more resilient against suicide
when life takes a turn for the worst.
Know someone who may be facing a crisis or going through a tough time? Learn what you can do to help someone in crisis, or find out more about our services here.