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Stop suicide: Who is at risk?

Wednesday, September 13, 2023 1:00 PM
Tags: suicide

At this very moment, someone in your community is thinking about ending their life. In Illinois, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death, and the third leading cause of death for young adults aged 15 to 34. Thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts are even more common.

Nobody is immune to suicide — it affects all ages, genders, races and ethnicities. And in many cases, it be prevented. Who is most at risk? Knowing this can save a life.

While there is no single cause for suicide, a combination of factors may increase the chance of an attempt. Sometimes suicidal thoughts come and go, with periods of increased risk.

Some risk factors for suicide include:

  • Prior suicide attempt/s
  • History of substance use
  • History of mental health disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety)
  • Family history of suicide, mental illness and/or substance use disorder
  • Chronic illness and/or chronic pain
  • History of trauma, violence, abuse, bullying
  • Criminal/legal problems
  • Loss of job, money, home, relationship/breakup
  • Social isolation, lack of social support
  • Death or terminal illness of a loved one
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • Easy access to lethal means (guns, poisons, prescription medications)
  • Sense of hopelessness
  • Stigma associated with seeking mental health help
  • Barriers to healthcare access
  • Discrimination in the community

If someone you know has these risk factors, pay attention. Most people who attempt or complete suicide made their intentions known ahead of time by either talking about it or giving other clues. Listen closely and take warning signs of suicide seriously.

Also, communicate openly about it. A common misconception is that asking someone about suicide will put the idea in a person’s mind. This is not true. The reality is that talking about it with someone could potentially prevent it.

Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about dying. They often just want to end the pain they are in, not their lives. Talking about suicide often brings a sense of relief to the person in crisis. It’s a chance to connect with them and show that you care and are willing to help.

Suicide awareness risk factors

The National Institute of Mental Health provides 5 action steps for helping someone.

Some protective factors that help to reduce suicide risk include:

  • Access to mental health and/or substance misuse treatment
  • Intervention/strong support after a suicide attempt
  • Safe environment: Reduced access to guns and other lethal means (read our gun safety article)
  • Healthy connections with family and friends
  • Community support and involvement
  • Effective coping and problem-solving skills, overall resilience
  • Sense of purpose or self-esteem, reasons to live
  • Cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide

Any person who expresses suicidal thoughts or the intent to commit suicide should be taken seriously. Everyone can learn the warning signs of suicide and how to get help.

NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health is committed to taking steps to prevent suicide and raise awareness for mental health.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, 24/7 help is available:

Non-emergency resources

General resources