YSPLOGOSM.GIF (4829 bytes) Suicide Risk Factors
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From the Australian Youth Suicide Prevention campaign:
The following factors predispose young people to attempt or complete suicide. The risk is greater when more than one factor is present. The risk factors include:
  • Some personality traits.
  • Family stresses.
  • Prior suicidal behaviour.
  • Biochemical and genetic factors.
  • Stressful life events.
  • Social and cultural factors.
  • Psychiatric disorder.
  • Behavioural factors.
  • Exposure to attempted or completed suicides.

Personality Traits:
Young people at risk have displayed withdrawal, perfectionism, poor impulse control, aloofness, aggression, lack of trust, rigidity and hopelessness. Dysfunctional personality traits are not psychiatric disorders. However, in tandem with depression, conduct disorder or substance abuse, they add to the danger of an individual attempting or completing suicide.
Social and Cultural Factors:
These do not explain suicide, but there is a direct correlation with the increase in the rate of youth suicide. They must, therefore, be considered as risk factors, and include:

  • Increased rates of violence accompanied by decreased levels of concern.
  • Marriage dissolution, remarriage and changes in family structure.
  • Increased mobility, with disruption of friendships and social networks.
  • Uncertainty, through changes in employment, residence and access to education
  • Change roles of men and women.
  • Lager and less personal communities.

Family Stresses:
If considerable difficulties exits in childhood, there is more risk that the young person will attempt or complete suicide. Other family risk factors include:

  • Death of a parent, caregiver or another family member.
  • Partnership dissolution and separation.
  • New family relationships
  • Geographic and social mobility.
  • Problems with friendships.
  • Inconsistent parenting.
  • Physical or psychiatric illness within the family
  • Family violence, including sexual abuse and other power relationships.
  • Suicidal behaviour within the family
  • Poverty.

Mental Illness:
There are many psychiatric disorders that can increase the risk of suicide. These include depression, manicdepressive disorders, conduct disorders and schizophrenia. Those who are intent on suicide are unlikely to recognise their own emotional state.
Prior Suicidal Behaviour:
People who have previously attempted suicide are at risk. Uncertainty through changes in employment residence of making further attempts. Although it cannot be assumed that everyone who makes a suicide attempt will make further attempts or complete suicide, prior suicidal behaviour is a major antecedent of suicide.
Behavioural Factors:
Behavioural risk factors include:

  • Inappropriate use of alcohol, drugs or solvents.
  • Writing suicide notes and choosing suicide methods.
  • Variations in work performance or daily lifestyle.
  • Behaviour indicating feelings of rejection, humiliation, hopelessness or isolation.
  • Impulsive behaviour and other conduct disorders, including rage, anger and hostility.

Biochemical and Genetic Factors:
Studies have established that there is an association between reduced brain activity and subsequent suicide or violent suicide attempts. It is unclear whether this activity alone has a direct effect on suicidal behaviour or whether it is mediated through specific psychiatric disorders. No direct relationship between genetic inheritance and suicide has been established.
Exposure to Attempted or Completed Suicide:
This can be in a number of ways:

  • Seeing the person who completed suicide and being involved in the aftermath.
  • Having talked with or seen the person on the day of the suicide.
  • Belonging to the family of the deceased.
  • Being a close friend.
  • Being in the same class or group.
  • Being a friend of the family.
  • The attempted or completed suicide of a role model.
  • Reading or hearing about the death in the media.

Stressful Life Events:
Environmental stressors include events that engender feelings of rejection, humiliation, rage, shame or a desire to get even, including sexual and physical abuse.

Further Information

Other information sheets are:

How Can I Help
Statistics on Suicide Among Young People in Australia
Suicide Bibliography
The Myths of Suicide
What Are Suicide Risk Factors
What Are the Warning Signs
What Causes People to Commit Suicide
Youth Suicide Prevention Activities

and are available from:

Mental Health Library
1st Floor, Clinical Services Centre
Royal Park Hospital
Park Street
Parkville, Victoria 3052
Tel: (03) 9342 2574/5
Fax: (03) 9342 2578
E-mail: Mhealth@Vicnet.net.au

August 1996

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