Although suicide attempts are more frequent for women, men are more likely than women to complete suicide because they typically use more effective methods, such as a firearm.

You may be at risk of suicide if you:

  • Feel hopeless, socially isolated or lonely
  • Experience a stressful life event, such as the loss of a loved one, military service, a breakup, a significant medical illness, or financial or legal problems
  • Have a substance abuse problem — alcohol and drug abuse can worsen thoughts of suicide and make you feel reckless or impulsive enough to act on your thoughts
  • Have suicidal thoughts and have access to firearms in your home
  • Have an underlying psychiatric disorder, such as major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, anxiety or detachment from reality (psychosis), or paranoia
  • Have a family history of mental disorders, substance abuse, suicide or violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Have a medical condition that can be linked to depression and suicidal thinking, such as chronic disease, chronic pain or terminal illness
  • Are bisexual, homosexual or transgender with an unsupportive family or in a hostile environment
  • Attempted suicide before

Children and teenagers

Suicide in children and teenagers often follows stressful life events. Keep in mind that what a young person sees as serious and insurmountable may seem minor to an adult — such as problems in school or the loss of a friendship. In some cases, a child or teen may feel suicidal due to certain life circumstances he or she may not want to talk about. Some of these include:

  • Having a psychiatric disorder, including depression
  • Loss or conflict with close friends or family members
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Problems with alcohol or drugs
  • Becoming pregnant
  • Having a sexually transmitted infection
  • Being the victim of bullying
  • Being uncertain of sexual orientation

Murder and suicide

In some cases, people who are suicidal are at risk of killing others and then themselves. This is known as a homicide-suicide or murder-suicide. The types of feelings that trigger this tragic behavior can stem from a number of sources. Some common risk factors for murder-suicide include:

  • History of conflict with a spouse or romantic partner
  • Current family legal or financial problems
  • History of mental health problems, particularly depression
  • Alcohol or drug abuse or addiction
  • Having access to a firearm — nearly all murder-suicides are committed using a gun

Starting antidepressants and increased suicide risk

Some studies have shown a possible link between starting treatment with an antidepressant and an increased risk of suicide. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers of all antidepressants to include a warning stating that antidepressants may increase suicide risk in children, adolescents and young adults during the first few months of treatment.

However, the link between antidepressants and suicidal thinking isn't clear — and not taking an antidepressant when it's needed also increases the risk of suicide. To be safe, anyone who starts taking an antidepressant should be watched closely for signs of suicidal thinking. If you — or someone you know — has suicidal thoughts when taking an antidepressant, immediately contact your doctor or get emergency help.

Jun. 09, 2012