Understanding Risk and Protective Factors of Suicide

Risk factors are personal or environmental characteristics that can increase the likelihood of someone dying by suicide.

Suicide Risk Factors

  • Knowing someone who died by suicide.
  • Attempting suicide previously.
  • Abusing alcohol and drugs.
  • Experiencing mental disorders or chronic illnesses.
  • Having access to lethal means.

However, it is important to mention that risk factors do not predict whether someone will die by suicide.

On the other hand, protective factors are personal or environmental characteristics that can protect someone from suicide.

Suicide Protective Factors

  • Having access to effective mental health care.
  • Possessing coping and problem-solving skills.
  • Feeling connected to and supported by family, individuals, and community.
  • Having a purpose in life and high self-esteem.
  • Possessing cultural, personal, or religious beliefs that discourage suicide.
  • Suicide prevention strives to increase the amount of protective factors an individual has while decreasing the amount of risk factors.

There are several steps parents can take to increase protective factors in their children’s lives, including the following:

  • Plan regular meal times when the whole family can sit down together to eat.
  • Teach and model positive coping methods and problem-solving skills.
  • Limit screen time, especially on social media platforms.
  • Invite and initiate open conversation. Create an environment that helps children open up.
  • Safely store or lock any firearms and medicine in the house.
  • Encourage positive connections to teams, organizations, religions, etc.

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Suicidal thoughts can affects anyone. The stigma surrounding suicide can make it difficult for people who are struggling to speak up. This month especially is a time to raise awareness and help people find the resources they need. Here are a few ideas on what you can do to participate:

About the Author

Dr. Gregory A. Hudnall is a former high school principal and associate superintendent with the Provo City School District. He has been involved with suicide prevention for the past thirty years. He is nationally sought after for his expertise in postvention.

Dr. Hudnall is the founder of Hope4Utah, a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. The school-based program, Hope Squad, has been responsible for over 5,000 students referred for help and over 1,000 hospitalized. The Hope Squad program is now in over 950 schools around the world.

For over fifteen years Dr. Hudnall has led a state-wide volunteer suicide crisis team that has responded to over fifty youth suicides.

Dr. Hudnall has presented at over 100 national and state conferences on suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. He also presents on bullying, connectedness, community collaboration, and school safety. Dr. Hudnall was invited to testify before the United States Surgeon General on suicide in Utah. He has presented to the U.S. Department of Health and at the national conferences of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Association of Suicidology. Dr. Hudnall was also invited to participate in a webinar on African Americans and suicide by the White House.

Under Greg’s direction, over 60,000 people nationwide have been trained in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. He has presented across the United States and to many countries around the world on suicide prevention, including to the Minister of Education for Madrid, Spain.

Dr. Hudnall is considered one of the leading experts in community and school-based suicide
prevention, intervention and postvention. He lives by the mantra, “while it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire community to save one.”

To learn more about Dr. Hudnall, youth suicide prevention and HopeSquad, go to: https://hopesquad.com/.

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