Suicide Prevention: 10 Risk Factors You Need to Know

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among school age youth. In 2015, approximately 18% of 9th to 12th graders seriously considered suicide with 9% having tried one or more times. 

Being a teenager is stressful. The combination of everyday stresses such as school, deadlines, and relationships along with the additional burden of social media influence mental well-being. 

Instant access to the internet allows students to stay in constant communication. This results in frequent comparisons and criticisms which creates a space for speculation, judgement, and depreciation of self-worth to develop inside young minds. 

According to, “academic pressures, social challenges, hormonal changes, depression, detachment, and sadness are common among youth.” That being said, it is important that students are aware of and reminded that there are options and support available to them within their educational facilities, communities, and families so that they seek support and remain inspired and hopeful about their future. 

According to the Chief Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Montreal’s Children’s Hospital, there has been a noticeable increase in emergency room visits by teens over the past few years who have exhibited suicidal thoughts. 

“I don’t think that [social media] is the only reason, but it is one of the risk factors we should monitor,” said Dr. Martin Gignac. 

The study concluded that social media use by teens should be regulated to prevent “the development of depression” and to “reduce exacerbation of existing symptoms over time.” 

Suicide can seem like the only solution to those wanting to escape the constant emotional pain that they are living with. However, it is possible to prevent suicide with the right support and treatment options. 

Why it’s important to identify students at-risk 

Being able to identify the signs of a student at-risk of suicide, before any attempt to commit suicide is made, is key to prevention. There are often signs that something is wrong. 

There is rarely one specific reason why a student commits suicide. A combination of factors most likely contributes to the feeling that there are no other options available, other than to escape reality and not face tomorrow. 

Identifying a suicidal student can be complicated, as they do not usually voluntarily disclose that they are considering suicide. That’s why it’s important to be able to identify students at-risk.

Here is a list of ways to identify students at-risk of attempting suicide: 

1.  Depression and other mental health disorders, or a substance abuse disorder (often combined with other mental health disorders)

The state of a student’s mental health can influence their thoughts, feelings, and actions. 

2. Feeling hopeless and worthless 

Feeling like there are no options or a way to change reality. This may influence students into thinking that not being here will solve their problems. 

3. Previous suicide attempt(s) or threats of suicide 

Past suicide attempts heighten the risk of the student finding another reason/way to commit suicide. 

4. Physical illness 

Being unable to participate in a ‘normal’ lifestyle. This can bring dark thoughts to those with a permanent, physical illness as they may wish they were like others and feel like a burden to their family/caretaker. 

5. Feeling detached and isolated from friends, peers, and family 

Students feeling like they are alone with no one that understands what they are going through. 

6. Family history of suicide, mental illness, or depression 

Genetics can play a huge role in the decision to take one’s own life. 

7. Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse 

Traumatizing experiences could contribute to students deciding to commit suicide. 

8. Access to a weapon in the home 

Makes the idea/actualization of taking one’s own life more realistic. 

9. Access to social media and internet 

Looking at alternative realities and the illusions that social media creates can leave young minds feeling unfulfilled. Having access to the “how to” type articles on the internet can also influence their state of mind. 

10. Knowing someone with suicidal behavior, such as a family member, friend, or celebrity 

Influence plays a key part in the decision to take one’s own life. 

How can I help? 

In addition to becoming familiar with the signs of a student at-risk, consider using digital monitoring that can control and monitor the content students access online. onGuard helps schools create a safe, productive, and positive internet experience for students by making sure they’re protected from inappropriate or malicious content.

For further in-depth information on this topic, download our free whitepaper on Suicide Awareness and Prevention in Youth.