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.
June 09, 2012
- Schreiber J, et al. Suicidal ideation and behavior in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index. Accessed March 13, 2012.
- Kennebeck S, et al. Evaluation and management of suicidal behavior in children and adolescents. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index. Accessed March 13, 2012.
- Warning signs of suicide. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?page_id=0519ec1a-d73a-8d90-7d2e9e2456182d66. Accessed April 30, 2012.
- Understanding suicide: Fact sheet 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pub/Suicide_factsheet.html. Accessed Feb. 2, 2010.
- Logan J, et al. Characteristics of perpetrators in homicide-followed-by-suicide incidents: National Violent Death Reporting System — 17 US States, 2003-2005. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2008;169:9.
- When you fear someone may take their life. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?page_id=F2F25092-7E90-9BD4-C4658F1D2B5D19A0. Accessed March 22, 2012.
- Kolla BP, et al. The base rates and factors associated with reported access to firearms in psychiatric inpatients. General Hospital Psychiatry. 2011;2:191.
- Durkee T, et al. Internet pathways in suicidality: A review of the evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2011;10:3938.
- McDowell AK, et al. Practical suicide-risk management for the busy primary care physician. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2011;8:792.
- Kennebeck S, et al. Epidemiology and risk factors for suicidal behavior in children and adolescents. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index. Accessed March 13, 2012.
- Simon G. Effect of antidepressants on suicide risk in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index. Accessed March 13, 2012.
- Harvey SB, et al. Physical activity and common mental disorders. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 2010;197:357.
- Webb RT, et al. Suicide risk in primary care patients with major physical diseases. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2012;69:256.
- Revisions to product labeling. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273. Accessed May 30, 2012.
- Suicide: Taking care of yourself and your family after an attempt (Family guide). The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Issue_Spotlights&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=24452. Accessed April 30, 2012.
- Suicide: Taking care of yourself after an attempt (Consumer guide). The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Issue_Spotlights&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=24452. Accessed April 30, 2012.
- Bostwick JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 28, 2012.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.