Suicide Prevention Hotline

Helping to prevent suicide in Hood River County

Warning signs of depression & suicide may include:

  • Prolonged mood & behavior changes
  • Feeling hopeless or no sense of purpose
  • Withdrawing from friends, family
  • Reckless behavior
  • Change in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Anger/irritability
  • Anxiety/agitation
  • Talking or writing about death, suicide
  • Seeking access to guns, pills
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Giving away precious possessions

Risk & Protective Factors

Suicide is a complex behavior that is usually caused by a combination of risk factors in the absence of protective factors.

Researchers have identified a number of risk factors associated with a higher risk for suicide and protective factors that may reduce the likelihood of suicidal behavior. It is important to note, however, that the importance of risk and protective factors can vary by age, gender, and ethnicity.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for suicide completion include:

Previous suicide attempts - If a youth has attempted suicide in the past, he or she is much more likely than other youths to attempt suicide again in the future. If a male teen has attempted suicide in the past, he is more than thirty times more likely to complete suicide, while a female with a past attempt has about three times the risk. Approximately a third of teenage suicide victims have made a previous suicide attempt.

Mental disorders or co-occurring mental and alcohol or substance abuse disorders - Research shows that over 90% of young people who complete suicide have a diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder or both, and that the majority have depressive illness In a 10- to 15-year follow up study of 73 adolescents diagnosed with major depression, 7 percent of the adolescents had completed suicide sometime later. The depressed adolescents were five times more likely to have attempted suicide as well, compared with a control group of age peers without depression. Almost half of teenagers who complete suicide have had a previous contact with a mental health professional. In addition, aggressive, disruptive, and impulsive behavior is common in youth of both sexes who complete suicide.

Family history of suicide - A high proportion of suicides and attempters have had a close family member (sibling, parent, aunt, uncle, or grandparent) who attempted or completed suicide. Familial suicide can be a function of imitation or genetics. Many of the mental illnesses which contribute to suicide risk appear to have a genetic component.

Stressful life event or loss - Stressful life events often precede a suicide and/or suicide attempt. Such stressful life events include getting into trouble at school or with a law enforcement agency; fighting or breaking up with a boyfriend or a girlfriend; and fighting with friends. They are rarely a sufficient cause of suicide, but they often act as precipitating factors in young people.

Easy access to lethal methods, especially guns - As mentioned above, firearms are the most common method of suicide by youth. The most common location for the occurrence of firearm suicides by youth is in their homes, and there is a positive association between the accessibility and availability of firearms in the home and the risk for youth suicide. The risk conferred by guns in the home is proportional to the accessibility (e.g., loaded and unsecured firearms) and the number of guns in the home.

Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, whether that of a peer or in the media - Suicide can be facilitated in vulnerable teens by exposure to real or fictional accounts of suicide, including media coverage of suicide, such as intensive reporting of the suicide of a celebrity, or the fictional representation of a suicide in a popular movie or TV show. In addition, there is evidence of suicide clusters, that is, local epidemics of suicide that have a contagious influence. Suicide clusters nearly always involve previously disturbed young people who knew about each other's death but rarely knew the other victims personally.

Other identified risk factors include a family history of mental or substance abuse disorders, a history of physical and/or sexual abuse, low levels of communication with parents, the possession of certain cultural and religious beliefs about suicide (for instance, the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma), and lack of access or an unwillingness to seek mental health treat ment.

The impact of some risk factors can be reduced by interventions (such as providing effective treatments for depressive illness). Those risk factors that cannot be changed (such as a previous suicide attempt) can alert others to the heightened risk of suicide during periods of the recurrence of a mental or substance abuse disorder, or following a significant stressful life event.

Protective factors

Protective factors can include an individual's genetic or neurobiological makeup, attitudinal and behavioral characteristics, and environmental attributes. Some identified protective factors are: learned skills in problem solving, impulse control, conflict resolution, and nonviolent handling of disputes; family and community support; access to effective and appropriate mental health care and support for help-seeking; restricted access to highly lethal methods of suicide; and cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support self-preservation instincts. Measures that enhance resilience or protective factors are as essential as risk reduction in preventing suicide. Positive resistance to suicide is not permanent, so programs that support and maintain protection against suicide should be ongoing.

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