Risk factors

No one is immune to suicide. People with depression are at particular risk for suicide, especially when factors shown below are present 1. Previous self-harm (i.e. intentional self-poisoning or self-injury, regardless of degree of suicidal intent) is a particularly strong risk factor. Also, a number of other risk factors for suicide have been identified and should be considered when assessing depressed individuals. It should be noted that family history of suicide or self-harm is particularly important. There are also some factors which may offer some degree of protection against suicide.

Risk factors specific to depression

  • Family history of mental disorder.
  • History of previous suicide attempts (this includes self-harm).
  • Severe depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Personality disorder.
  • Alcohol abuse and/or drug abuse.
  • Male gender.

Other risk factors for consideration

  • Family history of suicide or self-harm.
  • Physical illness (especially when this is recently diagnosed, chronic and/or painful).
  • Exposure to suicidal behaviour of others, either directly or via the media.
  • Recent discharge from psychiatric inpatient care.
  • Access to potentially lethal means of self-harm/suicide.

Possible protective factors

  • Social support.
  • Religious belief.
  • Being responsible for children (especially young children).