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Although we are just beginning to understand what may increase or decrease someone’s risk for suicide, we do know there is no single cause of suicide. Many factors influence a person’s risk for attempting or dying by suicide. And, having risk factors or few protective buffers does not always mean that suicide will occur.

A person’s characteristics, experiences, and relationships can contribute to the risk for suicide. For instance, a previous suicide attempt, alcohol and drug use, depression and other mental health issues, physical illness, a family history of suicide or violence, and feeling alone can put people at risk. Access to lethal means and difficulty accessing mental health services can also heighten the risk for suicide.

Ongoing research is helping us identify factors that can help protect individuals from suicidal thoughts and behaviors. For example, access to mental health, medical care, and other support services can lower the risk for suicide. Community and family support also can serve as protective buffers.

Preventing suicide is possible through awareness, education, and efforts to support people at risk for suicide. Learning about the risk and protective factors can help us stop it, before it happens.

To download a complete list of risk and protective factors, please visit CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention website.