Teen Suicide Prevention: Risk Factors

These risk factors are not uncommon; they become dangerous when they exist in combination. Some of these risk factors are 'fixed' or unchangeable, while others are considered 'variable' and can be changed. By eliminating some of the variable factors, the risk for suicide can be temporarily lowered. One of the most effective ways to lower risk is to recognize when students are at elevated risk, and get them to a resource person who can assist them in developing more permanent risk reduction strategies.

Demographic Factors
Among youths between 15 and 19 years of age, white males have the highest suicide rates and African-American females have the lowest. Between 1981 and 2004, the suicide rates increased 51% for children between 10 and 14 years of age.

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation

Clinical Factors
Youths diagnosed with some type of emotional problem or with a history of drug/alcohol abuse are in a more vulnerable category. A previous attempt is one of the most important risk factors, especially when combined with other risk factors.

  • Psychiatric history
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Previous attempt

Personal and Family History
A personal history that includes physical or sexual abuse elevates risk. A family history that includes suicide also increases risk.

  • History of abuse
  • History of suicide

  • To suicide (personally or in the media)
  • Death of peer under any circumstance

Recent, Severe Stressors

  • Loss
  • Trouble
  • Change — transition

Personality Factors
Certain personality factors can also elevate risk, because they lead to poor judgment and compromise problem-solving skills.

  • Impulsive
  • Immature
  • Anxious worrying
  • Aggressive behavior — especially outbursts of rage

Access to Means

More Suicide Prevention and Awareness Resources

Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, Inc. (SPTS)

Provided in partnership with Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, Inc.

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