Risk and Protective Factors

Risk and Protective Factors help explain suicidal behavior - including thinking about suicide, attempts and deaths.

Risk Factors include:

  • Loss of a loved one, a relationship or job
  • Family history of child maltreatment or neglect
  • Traumatic experiences, such as witnessing or experiencing violence
  • A sense of isolation
  • Lack of social support
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Access to lethal means like guns and pills
  • Family history of suicide
  • A history of mental health problems
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Stigma associated with seeking help

Protective factors make it less likely that someone will consider or attempt suicide and also increase resiliency. Some examples are:

  • Family and community support
  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
  • Easy access to a variety of supports for mental health issues
  • Effective care and support for mental, physical and substance abuse issues
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support self-preservation

Full list of risk and protective factors (PDF)

Warning Signs of Suicide

Most people who are feeling depressed or desperate enough to consider suicide give clues to how they're feeling. You can be the first step towards help for someone you care about by learning to recognize these clues to suicide risk.

Screening for Mental Health programs include both in-person and online programs for depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, alcohol problems and suicide prevention.

How to Help Someone Who is Thinking About Suicide

Learning that a loved one is thinking about suicide is scary, but there are things that you can do to help.

Frequently Asked Questions About Suicide

The more you know about suicide, the better you will be able to help someone who might be struggling.

National Statistics on Suicide

Official data — rates, numbers, and rankings of each state, stats by gender, age and region.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and Suicide

The ACE Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted on the links between childhood maltreatment and later life health and well-being. This groundbreaking work shows a direct relationship between childhood trauma and negative health outcomes later in life, including depression, suicide and self-injury.


This information is provided by the Suicide Prevention Program within the Department of Public Health.