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Indiana Safe Students Initiative

Risk Factors

When trying to explain why young people take their own lives, some research indicates a correlation between high-risk behaviors – such as sexual activity and drug use – with higher suicide rates. Other studies cite increases in youth depression.

Risk factors for suicidal behavior can include feelings of hopelessness or isolation, having a parent with a mood disorder, substance abuse, history of physical or sexual abuse, school or work problems, and chronic physical illness.

Warning signs can include statements such as, “I won’t be a problem for you much longer.” Talking about suicide, refusing help, not tolerating praise or reward, complaining about being a “bad” person, and giving away favorite possessions also can foretell suicide.

If a teen in your family, classroom, or youth agency is exhibiting these warning signs, stay with that individual and ask direct questions that can help that person express their feelings. Focus on the present, not the past or the future. Remain calm, and seek help from a doctor or mental health professional.

Additional risk factors:

  • Learning disabled youth
  • Loners
  • Youth with low self-esteem
  • Depressed youth
  • Students in serious trouble
  • Abused, molested, or neglected youth
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Parental history of violence, substance abuse, or divorce