Suicide Risk Factors & Warning Signs

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people, but it can be prevented.  Learn the risk factors and warning signs.

Suicide risk factors

  • Having symptoms or a diagnosis of a mental health disorder
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • History of trauma
  • Risk-taking or impulsive behaviors
  • Family history of attempted or completed suicide
  • Previous suicide attempt

Just because someone may have risk factors does not mean they are thinking about suicide, however the presence of these risk factors along with some of the warning signs below can alert friends, loved ones, or teachers that a young person may be having suicidal thoughts or has a plan to end their life.

Warning signs and red flags

  • Changes in appearance/hygiene
  • Drop in grades
  • A recent breakup
  • Increase in substance use
  • Impulsive and dangerous behavior
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Comments like “you won’t have to worry about me anymore”
  • Expressing feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Constantly talking about death and even acquiring the means

The number of risk factors and warning signs does not determine how likely one is to having suicidal thoughts or behaviors. If you suspect that someone is experiencing thoughts of suicide or has a plan, express your concern for them, listen to them, and be compassionate. If you do not feel comfortable starting a conversation with someone and asking them directly if they are having suicidal thoughts or have a plan to take their life, find a trusted adult who is. You may feel afraid to talk to an adult, especially if that person has shared how they feel and specifically asks you not to; however, it is important to remember that their life is in danger and their life is more important than them being mad at you. If you think or know that a friend has suicidal thoughts or has thought about taking their own life, talk to a teacher, school counselor, parent, or other trusted adult.

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have considered taking your own life, reach out to someone you trust for support or contact your local crisis center.

Klein Family Harford Crisis Center web site link