There are several causes of suicide. Knowing and understanding the causes and warning signs can help you prevent suicide.
Suicide affects thousands of people yearly, but there isn’t a single cause. Various factors lead someone to suicide.
Many people diagnosed with mental health or substance use disorders may be more prone to suicide than others. Some people may be experiencing overwhelming life events or stressors that make it hard for them to keep going.
Knowing what causes suicide can help you notice signs in yourself and others that it may be time to get help. If you experience suicidal ideation, treatment is available for you.
If you’re considering self-harm or suicide, you’re not alone
You can access free support right away with these resources:
- 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.Call the Lifeline at 988 for English or Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- The Crisis Text Line.Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
- The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text “START” to 678678, or chat online 24/7.
- Veterans Crisis Line.Call 988 and press 1, text 838255, or chat online 24/7.
- Deaf Crisis Line.Call 321-800-3323, text “HAND” to 839863, or visit their website.
- Befrienders Worldwide.This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.
There are various reasons someone may attempt to take their own life.
Some causes of suicide include:
Disorders and mental health conditions
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD): Up to
10%of individuals that have received a diagnosis of BPD die by suicide.
Research from 2020indicates that major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most prevalent mental health disorder and has a suicide likelihood of approximately 15%.
- Bipolar disorder: A
2019 reviewfound that individuals with bipolar disorder were 10 to 30 times more likely to die by suicide than those in the general population.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):
2016 researchsuggests that PTSD is associated with an elevated chance of suicide.
- Substance use disorders: Findings from a
2020 case-control studyindicate an elevated likelihood of suicide in those with substance use disorders, and the chance for suicide increases if you use multiple substances.
- Psychosis: A 2020 review notes that people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders are 5%-7% more likely to die by suicide than those without psychosis, and the likelihood is higher in the first year after being diagnosed.
- Stress: Findings from
2019 researchindicate that stress is linked with suicidality in youth.
- Anxiety disorders: A
2016 literature reviewof anxiety disorders and suicidality indicates a statistically significant but weak link between anxiety disorders and suicidality.
- Eating disorders: A
2019 studyof 36,171 respondents found the rate of suicide attempts among those with eating disorders to be 5-6 times higher than those without specific eating disorders.
Stressors and risk factors
- Discrimination: The experience of everyday race-based discrimination was linked with increased depressive symptoms and suicidality among African-American men in one research study.
- Bullying: A
2020 literature reviewof several articles on bullying in youth found a strong link between bullying and suicidality.
- Access to lethal means:
Research from 2021indicates that access to lethal means predicts suicide.
- Financial strain: 2020 research findings suggest that financial pressure through housing instability, low income, debt, and job loss are factors for attempting suicide.
- Bereavement: Grief is a strong predictor of suicidal ideation, attempts, and death by suicide, according to a
2019 literature reviewon bereavement.
- Chronic pain:
2021 researchindicates higher rates of suicidal behavior in individuals that have chronic pain.
- Domestic violence: A study from 2017 on domestic violence against women in India found that domestic violence was an independent risk variable for suicide.
- Termination of a romantic relationship:
Research from 2018suggests that the ending of a romantic relationship is a predictor of suicide.
Research on 1398 individualsfound that experiencing a traumatic event was associated with a higher chance of suicide. The researchers found that men who experienced a traumatic event were at an even greater chance of suicide.
While these factors account for many reasons someone may experience thoughts of suicide, there may be other reasons why people die by suicide.
Understanding the causes of suicide can help increase prevention efforts. Due to the various reasons for suicide, there isn’t one way to prevent suicide, but there are some strategies that can help lower the chances of suicide.
Some evidence-backed strategies for suicide prevention include:
- restricting access to lethal means
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- education on depression and suicide
- using antidepressants
- psychiatric outreach if someone is experiencing a crisis or has been hospitalized
Seeking mental health treatment and recognizing the warning signs may help prevent suicide.
- LGBTQ+ youth
- non-Hispanic white individuals
- non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Native individuals
- people who live in rural areas
The CDC additionally notes that suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals 10-14 years old and those who are 25-34 years old.
Understanding the signs that you or someone you know may be experiencing thoughts of suicide may help prevent suicide.
According to the
- feelings of intense guilt or shame
- feeling like a burden on other people
- talking about wanting to die
- isolating from social supports
- extreme mood changes
- feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness
- making a will
- feeling enraged
- giving away possessions
- exhibiting dangerous behavior like driving recklessly
- using substances such as drugs or alcohol more frequently
- increase or decrease in appetite
- sleeping more or less than usual
- looking up ways to die
- making a plan to die
- unbearable physical or emotional pain
If you need help for suicidal ideation or you notice someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, here are some things you can do:
- call 911
- go to your nearest emergency room
- call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 in the United States
- use Befrienders Worldwide to locate a hotline near you
- text the Crisis Text Line at 741741
- talk with a trusted loved one
If you need the support of a mental health professional, you can use this FindCare tool to locate a therapist near you. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, you aren’t alone; recognizing the causes and signs of suicide is the first step toward a better life.