Recognizing the Signs and Risk Factors of Suicide


More than 1.5 million lives are lost to suicide annually and in 2015, an American died by suicide every 12.95 minutes, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Recognition of the symptoms and risk factors associated with suicide can help us take steps towards decreasing the likelihood of a loved one taking their own lives.

Who’s Most at Risk of Suicide?

In general, males attempt suicide more frequently, although females are more likely to have suicidal thoughts. Men most often commit suicide with a firearm; women most often commit suicide by poisoning.

Other risk factors include:

  • Low IQ
  • Exposure to violence and conflict in the family
  • High emotional distress
  • Substance abuse
  • History of violent victimization

Protective factors, or characteristics that make a person less likely to commit suicide, include:

  • Religiosity
  • Developed social skills
  • Positive social orientation
  • Intolerant attitude toward deviance

What Symptoms Should I Look Out for?

To remember common symptoms or indicators of suicidal thoughts, use the mnemonic device “Is Path Warm.”

Ideation – Is there active suicidal ideation?

Substance abuse – Does the individual have a history of substance abuse, or is there active substance abuse?

Purposelessness – Does the individual have feelings of purposelessness?

Anxiety – Is the individual anxious, or do they have a history of anxiety?

Trapped – Does the individual feel trapped?

Hopelessness – Is the individual having feelings of hopelessness?

Withdrawal – Is the individual experiencing withdrawal from drugs or alcohol?

Anger – Is the individual angry? Is there a history of anger problems?

Recklessness – Is the individual acting recklessly?

Mood changes – Has the individual exhibited notable mood changes?

Portrait of a handsome young manAnswering yes to one of these indicators may not mean that the individual is suicidal; however, even demonstrating one symptom can be cause for concern. By reaching out and expressing support, you may encourage the individual to get the help that they need.

The Light Program provides intensive outpatient mental health treatment that can help those suffering from depression, thoughts of suicide, and anxiety. If you think The Light Program may be right for you or a loved one, call 1-888-686-7511 or fill out a contact form so we can get in touch with you as soon as possible.

This information is not a substitute for an evaluation by a licensed professional.

Contributed by Nito Gan, M.D.