Risk factors of suicide in adolescence

Risk factors of suicide in adolescence are a grave and complex public health issue. Adolescence is a tumultuous period marked by physical, emotional, and psychological changes. During this time, many young individuals grapple with a variety of challenges, some of which can escalate to the point where they contemplate or even attempt suicide. Understanding the risk factors associated with suicide in adolescence is crucial for prevention and intervention efforts. This article will explore the multifaceted risk factors that contribute to suicide in this vulnerable age group.

Mental Health Disorders

One of the most prominent risk factors for adolescent suicide is the presence of mental health disorders. Conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder can significantly increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Adolescents may struggle to cope with the overwhelming emotional pain associated with these disorders, leading to feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Risk factors of suicide in adolescence: Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a concerning risk factor in adolescent suicide. Many adolescents turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medication or coping with emotional distress. Substance abuse can impair judgment and decision-making, making it more likely for them to engage in impulsive and self-destructive behaviors, including suicide attempts.

Bullying and Cyberbullying

One of the highest risk factors of suicide in adolescence is bullying, both in-person and online. This has a profound impact on adolescent mental health. Victims of bullying often experience feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and helplessness. The persistent and damaging effects of bullying can push vulnerable adolescents toward suicidal ideation and actions.

Family and Peer Relationships

Family dynamics and peer relationships play a pivotal role in an adolescent’s life. Risk factors like family conflict, a history of parental suicide, or poor parent-child relationships can increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts. Additionally, isolation from friends or falling victim to peer pressure can also contribute to the risk of suicide.

Adolescents who identify as LGBTQ+ face a higher risk of suicide due to the discrimination, prejudice, and social stigmatization they often encounter. Feeling rejected by their families, peers, or communities can lead to profound emotional distress and isolation, driving some LGBTQ+ youth to contemplate or attempt suicide.

Access to Lethal Means and other risk factors of suicide in adolescence

Easy access to lethal means, such as firearms or prescription medications, significantly increases the risk of suicide. Adolescents with access to these means are more likely to act impulsively on suicidal thoughts, leading to tragic outcomes.

A previous suicide attempt is one of the most potent risk factors for future suicide attempts or completions. Adolescents who have made an attempt are at a heightened risk, emphasizing the importance of providing comprehensive mental health care and support following a suicide attempt.

The intense pressure to succeed academically and fit in socially can be overwhelming for adolescents. The fear of failure, coupled with the desire to meet unrealistic expectations, can contribute to feelings of hopelessness and despair, potentially leading to suicidal thoughts.

What are considered risk factors of suicide in adolescence

“Risk” is a multifaceted concept utilized to gauge the likelihood of a particular behavior occurring. In the context of suicide, “suicide risk factors” refer to various elements that elevate the possibility of an individual engaging in suicidal behaviors. Recent research findings have shed light on the intricate nature of youth suicides, which often result from a complex interplay of biological, psychological, socio-cultural, and familial factors. Moreover, a person’s age, gender, or ethnic background can augment the influence of specific risk factors or combinations thereof, rendering them more susceptible to suicidal tendencies.

Suicidal acts can be comprehended as outcomes of the interweaving of several factors, encompassing an individual’s personal background, family dynamics, their current emotional state, and recent significant life events. These elements coalesce to create an intolerable mental anguish in young individuals, pushing them toward suicidal ideation or actions. It is imperative to recognize that the “ingredients” necessary for completed or attempted suicide differ from one person to another, dispelling the notion that suicide is a random act or solely a consequence of stress. Nevertheless, there are discernible common risk factors, including but not limited to:

  1. Previous Attempts
  2. Depression
  3. Drug and Alcohol Abuse
  4. Conduct Disorder & Behavioral Factors
  5. A Disruptive and Unsupportive Family Background
  6. Relationship Conflicts
  7. Social and Cultural Factors
  8. Poor Coping Skills
  9. Psychiatric Illnesses
  10. The Ready Availability of Lethal Means to Commit Suicide
  11. Other Risk Factors

Previous Attempts

Among the most potent risk factors of suicide in adolescence predictors is a history of previous suicide attempts. As the number of prior attempts escalates, so does the risk of a fatal outcome. Furthermore, exposure to someone else’s attempted or completed suicide can also be a contributing factor, influencing vulnerable individuals in various ways.


While mood fluctuations are commonplace during adolescence, persistent and pronounced mood disturbances may indicate underlying major depression. Depressed adolescents, particularly females, face a significantly heightened risk of suicide. This risk is further compounded if there is a family history of depression and suicide. The manifestations of depression can vary considerably depending on the age of the youth, with older individuals more likely to exhibit adult-like depressive symptoms.

In summary, understanding suicide risk factors is crucial in dismantling the misconception that suicide is a random or unexplainable act solely driven by stress. By acknowledging and comprehensively addressing these multifaceted risk factors, we can work towards developing more effective prevention and intervention strategies, thereby safeguarding the well-being of vulnerable youth.

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