Suicide is defined as the intentional act of taking one’s own life. It is a tragic but sometimes preventable public health issue that affects individuals of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. Risk factors for suicide include psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorder, history of trauma or abuse, a family history of suicide, access to lethal means (including firearms) and more. In order to prevent suicide, it is important to reduce suicidal risk factors and to create a supportive and safe environment for those at risk. This includes identifying individuals at risk and providing them with appropriate resources and treatment, supporting individuals who have lost someone to suicide, and having open conversations about suicide.


The symptoms of suicide can vary depending on the individual, but some common signs to look out for include:

  • Talking about feeling hopeless, helpless, or being a burden to others
  • Withdrawing from activities or isolating oneself from family and friends
  • Expressing excessive anger, rage, or seeking revenge
  • Substance abuse
  • Sleep changes, either sleeping too much or too little
  • Increased risk taking or neglecting personal safety
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Expressing a desire to die or making suicidal threats
  • Saying goodbye to friends or family as if it were for the last time
  • Making a plan or having a plan for suicide
  • Making peace with death


The causes of suicide are complex and varied, and often involve a combination of both physical and mental health issues. Common known causes of suicide include depression, schizophrenia, alcohol and substance misuse, feelings of hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, feelings of helplessness or entrapment, trauma, relationship issues, and financial difficulties. Environmental factors, such as exposure to family violence, bullying, and a history of abuse, are also associated with an increased risk of suicide.

Risk factors

Risk factors for suicide include mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, as well as substance abuse disorders. Other risk factors include a family history of suicide, a history of trauma or abuse, being a veteran, and having access to firearms. Additional risk factors include feeling a sense of hopelessness, having extreme stress, experiencing a drastic life change, or having medical issues. Risk factors can also include a lack of support, feelings of isolation, feelings of worthlessness, and feeling like a burden to others.


Suicide is typically not diagnosed, as it is a behavior and not an illness. However, some professionals may be able to diagnose a person who is at risk for suicide with a condition such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. A mental health professional will assess a person’s mental health, and if suicidal thoughts or behaviors are present, they can provide the person with a treatment plan that can include therapy, medication, or other forms of help. In addition, family and friends may be able to recognize changes in mood, behavior, or outlook that may point to suicidal thoughts and feelings.


There are several different categories of suicide and each one is unique in terms of its motivation and potential risk factors. The most commonly identified subtypes of suicide include:

  1. Impulsive/Reactive Suicide: This type of suicide is usually motivated by an immediate, intense emotional response to a crisis, such as grief, anger, or depression.
  2. Instrumental/Purposive Suicide: This type of suicide involves an individual purposefully taking their life in order to achieve a specific goal, such as escaping an intolerable situation or punishing others.
  3. Escape/Avoidance Suicide: This type of suicide typically involves an individual attempting to escape a situation that they feel is inescapable or unbearable.
  4. Affective/Depressive Suicide: This type of suicide is usually caused when an individual experiences a prolonged period of intense feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair.
  5. Altruistic Suicide: This type of suicide involves an individual sacrificing their own life in order to benefit others or as an expression of loyalty to a larger group.
  6. Psychotic/Manic Suicide: This type of suicide is caused by a break from reality, where the individual cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality.
  7. Nominal/Symbolic Suicide: This type of suicide does not involve a fatality, but instead an individual’s attempt to gain attention or send a message to others.


The most effective treatment options for suicidal thoughts or feelings are psychotherapy and medication. Other forms of treatment include social supports, activities, and lifestyle changes.

Psychotherapy: Working with a trained therapist can help someone explore their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to suicidality. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often used to help people identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors related to suicide.

Medication: In some cases, medication may be necessary to reduce suicidal thoughts or treat an underlying mental health condition. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for suicide prevention.

Social Supports: Spending time with supportive friends or family members can provide helpful distraction from suicidal thoughts and feelings. Connecting with support groups of people who have experienced similar struggles can also be beneficial.

Activities: Engaging in enjoyable and meaningful activities can help reduce rumination on suicidal thoughts and feelings. Activities such as exercise, music, art, and reading can help take the focus away from suicidal thinking.

Lifestyle Changes: Making changes to your lifestyle can help reduce feelings of despair. This includes eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Developing healthy coping skills and improving problem-solving skills can also be beneficial.


There are several steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of suicide.

  1. Reach out to those who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts: It is important to provide support and understanding to those who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts. Let them know that you are there to listen without judgement and help them access resources such as a mental health professional or support groups.
  2. Make sure those at risk have access to help: Make sure that those who may be at risk of suicide have access to professionals and resources to help them in their time of need. This may include access to mental health services and support groups.
  3. Educate yourself and others about suicide: Educate yourself and others about suicide and its warning signs. This can help create a better understanding of the importance of mental health and may help prevent future suicide attempts.
  4. Help reduce the stigma associated with mental health and suicide: The stigma associated with mental health and suicide can be a barrier to seeking help. Help reduce the stigma by having meaningful conversations about the topic and leading by example by seeking help if you are in need.
  5. Monitor and limit access to lethal means: Access to lethal means such as firearms and prescription medications can be a risk factor for suicide. Monitoring and limiting access to these means can help reduce the risk of suicide.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of suicide. Men and women experience different risk factors, symptoms, and motivations for suicide, and therefore often require different interventions.

Men are more likely than women to take their own lives, and they are more likely to use violent methods such as firearms. Mental health disorders and substance abuse are more common in males who die by suicide, and they are often more impulsive and less likely to seek help.

Women are more likely than men to attempt suicide, but less likely to die by suicide. Females more often attempt suicide through less lethal means, such as poisoning or overdose. Women are more likely to experience depression and anxiety as motivations for suicide, and to report having a history of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Women may also be more likely to seek help from medical professionals when they feel suicidal.

Gender-specific interventions and strategies such as gender-sensitive counseling and mental health services are necessary to effectively manage suicide risk in both men and women.


Nutrition plays a critical role in the management of suicidal ideation and behavior. Eating a balanced, nutritious diet helps the body to generate the energy it needs to manage emotional, psychological and physical stress. A nutritious diet is essential for maintaining healthy brain function and promoting a positive mindset. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and Vitamin D are particularly important for mental health as they are associated with decreased levels of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. Eating a variety of produce, lean proteins, and healthy fats also helps to ensure adequate intake of the necessary vitamins and minerals for proper mental health functioning. Additionally, avoiding processed, sugary, and fatty foods can reduce feelings of low energy and fatigue which can contribute to suicidal ideation and behavior. Therefore, it is clear that nutrition plays an important role in the management of suicide and should be part of any comprehensive mental health treatment.

Physical Activity

Physical activity has been found to have a protective effect against suicide. Physical activity can increase an individual’s overall well-being by increasing mood and providing an outlet to manage stress. Exercise also promotes better sleep and helps to reduce symptoms of depression, which can in turn help prevent suicide. In addition, physical activity can help increase positive self-image, as well as providing an opportunity to build supportive relationships, which can also help reduce the risk of suicide.

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