THE MORE YOU KNOW… about risk factors, associated behaviors, and protective factors known to be associated with suicide ideation and attempt, the better equipped you will be to SAVE-A-LiFE. The following can play a critical role in the prevention of suicide attempt and loss.

NOTE: Risk factors indicate someone is at a heightened risk of suicidal thoughts, whereas behaviors can indicate an immediate risk of suicidal action. Think of behaviors as an “outward expression” of what a person is thinking and feeling. Also, behaviors can be observed in individuals. Risk factors, however, can exist in individuals and the community at large.

Risk factors are not the same thing as behaviors or warning signs and do not predict or cause suicide attempt. They are however factors that have been documented through research and shown to contribute to suicidal ideation, behaviors, and action. The more risk factors and observed behaviors, the greater potential and need to take lifesaving action and get help immediately.


  • Access to lethal means
  • Change in a close relationship
  • Chronic physical pain or terminal illness
  • Death of a family member, close friend, or pet
  • Family history or personal mental disorder(s)
  • Family/friend(s) died by suicide
  • Feeling little personal control over one’s LiFE
  • Financial instability
  • Having been bullied or harassed
  • Heightened status of success and expectation
  • History of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse
  • History of childhood trauma
  • Lacking a sense of purpose
  • Lack of “positive” support system/people
  • Lack of “healthy” coping skills
  • Lack of health insurance
  • Identify as L.G.B.T.Q.
  • Increasing age (especially among men)
  • Living alone
  • No high school education
  • Prior history of suicide attempt(s)
  • Public humiliation or shame
  • Sense of abandonment (current or past)
  • Unwanted relocation or move
  • Witness of war/combat or domestic violence

Any of the following could be a pre-indication to a suicide attempt. New or increasing behaviors, especially those following a significant and difficult life change should especially be given attention. Not all suicidal individuals share verbal or written warnings with friends and family but 50-75% do. Some threaten multiple times without an attempt before action is taken. Every threat or questionable/unusual behavior should be taken seriously.


    • Acting and reacting impulsively
    • Being incarcerated or losing one’s freedom
    • Considering, researching, or gaining access to lethal means
    • Communicating a feeling of burden to others
    • Communicating a feeling of personal failure
    • Demonstrating aggression/dramatic mood changes
    • Engaging in risky behavior
    • Exhibiting episode(s) of severe depression
    • Facing homelessness or having no permanent residence
    • Getting expelled from school or losing a job
    • Having inflexible thinking
    • Increasing (ab)use of alcohol and/or drugs
    • Expressing no fear of death or potential pain of dying
    • Sleeping too little or too much
    • Stating a desire to die or just end it all
    • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
    • Talking about feeling trapped
    • Threatening to take action to end one’s life
    • Withdrawing from people and personal interests

    IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW have or are experiencing one or more of the above risk factors or behaviors, and you are (or believe someone else is) having thoughts, DON’T HESITATE TO TAKE ACTION! Contact our office at (262) 429-1556, Monday-Thursday from 9a-5p and we will walk you through how to start a conversation. Or, call 1-800-273-8255 (24/7) from anywhere in the country. For Washington County residents, call (262) 365-6565 to speak with a crisis intervention professional.

    The prevention of suicide ideation (thought) and attempt is heavily influenced by the protective factors one has around them and actively practices. These environmental controls and personal engagements are proving to play a positive role in the aversion to suicide attempt, buffering those who may be at risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors from taking action. Identifying and understanding how the presence of protective factors can influence the recovery from psychological pain associated with suicide ideation and attempt is equally as important as that of risk factors and behaviors. Similarly, understanding that no two people are alike in the factors and behaviors contributing to the ideation of suicide, engaging protective factors is also best managed on an individual basis. By introducing, testing, monitoring, and adjusting to one’s response to protective factors, you can best pave a path toward improved mental health and decreased episodes of suicide ideation.


      • Access to mental health care
      • Access to/engaging in mental health care
      • Acquiring/practicing good problem-solving skills
      • Asking for help – sharing your pain with someone else
      • Avoiding being alone – connect with people/pets
      • Centering yourself in the moment (give yourself 24 hours)
      • Connecting with nature and natural sunlight
      • Creating and follow a schedule/routine that fosters HOPE
      • Embracing a positive outlook for change (the ups and downs)
      • Engaging peer environments that encourage healthy growth
      • Feeling in control over your LiFE
      • Gaining a tolerance for delayed gratification
      • Getting physical activity/exercise
      • Having a healthy response to criticism, rejection, challenge
      • Having a positive attitude toward mental health treatment
      • Letting go of unrealistic expectations (of yourself and others)
      • Making and following a safety plan
      • Practicing means restriction
      • Redirecting negative thoughts – recognizing positive aspects of LiFE
      • Refraining from comparing yourself to others
      • Remaining sober – refraining from alcohol and drugs (depressants)
      • Remembering the many times you’ve overcome adversity
      • Seeking relief from psychological pain, not from LiFE