About Suicide
Risk Factors for Suicide
  • Psychiatric Disorders At least 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric illnesses — such as major depression, bipolar depression, or some other depressive illness
  • Past History of Attempted Suicide Between 20 and 50 percent of people who kill themselves had previously attempted suicide. Those who have made serious suicide attempts are at a much higher risk for actually taking their lives.
  • Genetic Predisposition Family history of suicide, suicide attempts, depression or other psychiatric illness.
  • Neurotransmitters A clear relationship has been demonstrated between low concentrations of the serotonin metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleactic acid (5-HIAA) in cerebrospinal fluid and an increased incidence of attempted and completed suicide in psychiatric patients.
  • Impulsivity Impulsive individuals are more apt to act on suicidal impulses.
  • Demographics Sex: Males are three to five times more likely to die by suicide than females. Age: Elderly Caucasian males have the highest suicide rates


Warning Signs for Suicide
Observable signs of serious depression:

  • Unrelenting low mood
  • Pessimism
  • Hopelessness
  • Desperation
  • Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension
  • Withdrawal
  • Sleep problems

Increased alcohol and/or other drug use Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die Making a plan:

  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm
  • Obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications
Protective Factors
  • Effective clinical care for mental and physical health and substance abuse
  • Restricted access to highly lethal means of suicide
  • Strong connections to family and community support
  • Skills in problem-solving and conflict resolution
Special Populations

National Institute of Mental Health An estimated six million men in the United States have a depressive disorder-major depression, dysthymia (chronic, less severe depression), or bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) every year. (2004). The facts about men and depression An estimated six million men in the United States have a depressive disorder-major depression, dysthymia (chronic, less severe depression), or bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness)-every year. Although these illnesses are highly treatable, many men do not recognize, acknowledge, or seek help for their depression. While both men and women may develop the standard symptoms of depression, they often experience depression differently and may have different ways of coping. Men may be more willing to report fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and sleep disturbances rather than feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt, which are commonly associated with depression in women. Also, tragically, four times as many men as women die by suicide, even though women make more suicide attempts during their lives. The truth is, depression is a real and treatable illness. It can strike at any age, from childhood into late life. With proper diagnosis and treatment, the vast majority of men with depression can be helped. What makes depression different from the blues? Depression is a serious medical condition that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects how you eat and sleep. It alters your self-perception. It changes the way you think and feel. Men with a depressive illness can’t just “snap out of it” or “pull themselves together,” because depression isn’t the same as a passing mood. Left untreated, depression may last for weeks, months, or years at a time. Depressive illnesses can make routine tasks unbearably difficult. Pleasures that make life worth living-watching a football game, playing with children, even making love-can be drained of joy. Depression brings pain and disruption not only to the person who has it, but also to his family and others who care about him. If you are experiencing some of the following symptoms, you may have a depressive illness. Ask yourself if you are feeling: sad or “empty”; irritable or angry; guilty or worthless; pessimistic or hopeless; tired or “slowed down”; restless or agitated; like no one cares about you; or like life is not worth living. You may also: sleep more or less than usual; eat more or less than usual; have persistent headaches, stomachaches or chronic pain; have trouble concentrating, remembering things or making decisions; lose interest in work or hobbies; or lose interest in sex. If these symptoms are familiar, it’s time to talk with your doctor. Depression is a real, medical illness that can be successfully treated, most often with medication, psychotherapy (“talk” therapy), or a combination of both. Support from family and friends plays an important role as well. It takes courage to ask for help The feelings and behaviors that are part of depression can hinder a person’s ability to seek help. In addition, men in particular may find it difficult to admit depressive symptoms and ask for help. It’s important to remember, however, that depression is a real, treatable illness and is nothing to be ashamed about. Thanks to years of research, a variety of effective treatments including medications and short-term psychotherapies are available for depressive disorders. Treatment choice will depend on the patient’s diagnosis, severity of symptoms, and preference. In general, severe depressive illnesses, particularly those that are recurrent, will require a combination of treatments for the best outcome. If you are feeling depressed, tell someone about your symptoms. Speak with a doctor, nurse, psychologist, social worker, or employee assistance professional. Asking for help takes courage, but it can make all the difference. If you are in crisis and need to speak to someone, call Crisis Intervention Service (NC): 800-652-2929; (KE/SU): 800-345-6785.


On July 3, 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs launched a pilot on-line Chat Service, in partnership with Lifeline. The Veterans Chat Service is located at the VA National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Veterans Chat enables Veterans, their families and friends to go online where they can anonymously chat with a trained VA counselor. If the chats are determined to be a crisis, the counselor can take immediate steps to transfer the chatter to the VA Suicide Prevention Hotline, where further counseling and referral services are provided and crisis intervention steps can be taken. The online feature is intended to reach out to all Veterans who may or may not be enrolled in the VA health care system and provide them with online access to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and provides Veterans with an anonymous way to access VA’s suicide prevention services. Veterans (and family members or friends) can access Veterans Chat through the Lifeline suicide prevention website. The Veteran retains anonymity by entering whatever name they choose once they enter the one-on-one chat. They are then joined by a counselor who is trained to provide information and respond to the requests and concerns of the caller. Chat responders are trained in an intervention method specifically developed for the Chat to assist people with emotional distress and concerns and we have procedures they can use to transfer chatters in crisis to the Hotline for more immediate assistance. If the Veteran is in crisis, the counselor will encourage the Veteran to provide a phone number, so that further crisis intervention and referral can be provided. Since becoming operational, VA’s Suicide Prevention Hotline has received more than 150,000 calls, resulting in 4,000 rescues. At the Delaware Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wilmington, the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Dover and the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Georgetown, social workers are assigned to follow-up local referrals from the VA National Suicide Prevention Hotline. 

Older Adults


Anyone at any age can be at risk of suicide, but older Americans are especially vulnerable. Older adults experience the highest suicide rates in the nation.

  • Individuals 85 years and older had the highest suicide rate in 2014?
  • Approximately 90% of older adults who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental health and/or substance abuse disorder?
  • In 2014, over 16,000 Americans, aged 45-64, died by suicide and more than 7,500 aged 65 and older?
  • Older adults made up 14.5% of the population in 2014, yet account for 18% of suicides
  • Every day, over 21  adults 65 years and older die by suicide in the U.S.?

Research shows that older adults who attempt suicide are much more likely to die by suicide, leaving limited opportunities to save a life once suicidal behavior begins. Ongoing thoughts of depression and hopelessness should not be considered a normal part of aging. Rather these feelings of despair can be addressed and treated.