Personal Assistance Service (PAS) | 2200 West Main Street | Erwin Square Tower | 4th Floor, Suite 400A | Durham, NC 27705 | 919-416-1PAS (919-416-1727)

Warning Signs, Risk Factors and Protective Factors

Warning Signs of Suicide

An individual who exhibits some of the following behaviors may be at risk for suicide. If you know someone who may be at risk for suicide, follow the steps outlined in What to Do if Someone You Know is Having Suicidal Thoughts.

  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.
  • Making comments such as "I won't be around much longer" or "You'd be better off without me"
  • Studying about ways to die; e.g. internet searches
  • Obtaining the means to self-inflict injury or death (e.g. buying a gun, hoarding pills)
  • Talking about feeling hopeless and that there are no solutions to problems
  • Feeling that life is not worth living, having no sense of purpose in life
  • Talking about feeling trapped with no way out or in being in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Neglecting personal welfare
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Engaging in risky activities; looking as though one had a "death wish"
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, making out a will  


Risk Factors for Suicide

(from CDC)

A combination of individual, relational, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are those characteristics associated with suicide-they may or may not be direct causes.

  • Family history of suicide
  • Family history of child maltreatment
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
  • Local epidemics of suicide
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
  • Physical illness
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts  


Protective Factors for Suicide

(from CDC)

Protective factors buffer individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior.

  • Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
  • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking
  • Family and community support (connectedness)
  • Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self-preservation