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What leads to suicide?

There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide. Yet it’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life. Risk factors are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take their life.

Health risk factors:

  • Mental health conditions

    • Depression

    • Substance use problems

    • Bipolar disorder

    • Schizophrenia

    • Personality traits of aggression, mood changes and poor relationships

    • Conduct disorder

    • Anxiety disorders

  • Serious physical health conditions including pain

  • Traumatic brain injury

Individual Risk Factors:

  • Previous suicide attempt

  • Mental illness

  • Social isolation

  • Criminal problems

  • Financial problems

  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies

  • Job problems or loss

  • Legal problems

  • Substance use disorder

Relationship Risk Factors:

  • Adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse and neglect

  • Bullying

  • Family history of suicide

  • Relationship problems such as a break-up, violence, or loss

  • Sexual violence

Environmental Risk Factors:

  • Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs

  • Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment

  • Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, other life transitions or loss

  • Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide

Community & Societal
Risk Factors:


  • Barriers to health care

  • Cultural and religious beliefs such as a belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal problem

  • Suicide cluster in the community


  • Stigma associated with mental illness or help-seeking

  • Easy access to lethal means among people at risk (e.g. firearms, medications)

  • Unsafe media portrayals of suicide

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