Risk Factors by Age Group

Children/Adolescence

  • Features of adolescence
    • Impulsivity, catastrophise life events, susceptibly to shame and what others think of them.
    • Prone to handle bad feelings with alcohol, cannabis and other drugs
    • Less experience of working through things or of things working out
    • Harder for them to access help
    • Likely to know another who has done it
    • May be part of risk taking behaviour or self harm
  • Family breakdowns and conflict
  • Running away
  • Abuse – physical, sexual, emotional
  • History of previous attempts
  • Personal relationship finished
  • Self destructive behaviours
  • Depression
  • Substance use/abuse (including chroming)
  • Bullying
  • Unemployment
  • Death of a family member or friend
  • Experienced loss through suicide in the family
  • Experiencing a greater number of life stresses
  • Anxieties about gender and same sex attraction
  • Change in social values and pessimism in society
    • Youth wanting a humane and egalitarian society but instead are faced with economic rationalism, competitiveness and self interest
    • Youth pessimism due to their view of society’s values being based on greed and consumerism, along with a breakdown in community and social life and pressures on families, parents and marriages (Eckersley R. (1996) Young Australian Views of the Future. Youth Studies Australia 15(3): 11 -17.)

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What Young People with Suicidal Thoughts Tell us about their Situation

1. They have a sense of having no control over things happening in their lives.
2. They feel under pressure.
3. There has been a break-up of important relationships.
4. They want to escape from depression.
5. There is escalating family conflict.
The suicide attempt may signal not so much a wish to die as a wish for the hurting to stop.


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Some reasons given by young people for attempting suicide are indicated as follows in descending order

1. The situation was so unbearable that I had to do something and I didn’t
know what else to do.
2. I wanted to stop feeling the pain.
3. I wanted to die.
4. I wanted to escape for a while from an impossible situation.
5. I wanted to get relief from a terrible state of mind.
6. I wanted to show people how desperate I was.
7. I seemed to lose my self-control and I don’t know why I did it then.
8. I wanted to make things easier for others.
9. I wanted to try and find out whether someone really loved me.
10. I wanted to get help from someone.
11. I wanted to make people sorry for the way they have treated me.
12. I wanted to show how much I loved someone.
13. I wanted to frighten or get my own back on someone.
14. I wanted to try and get someone to change their mind.


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Useful links for Adolescents

• Reach Out www.reachout.com.au
• Kids Help Line www.kidshelp.com.au
• Headroom www.headroom.net.au
• Yellow Ribbon Program www.yellowribbon.org
• Beyond Blue www.beyondblue.org.au


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Men and Women Aged 25 – 55

Impulsivity + alcohol + mental health disorder + life event = high risk combination
• Life event (eg. separation, loss of custody of children, loss of job, bankruptcy).
• Personal characteristics (eg. impulsive, aggressive, hopelessness, poor sense of control, low self esteem, rigid thinking, worriers).
• Poor social connections, antisocial behaviour.
• Feelings of shame, inadequacy and defeat.
• Mood disorders, (eg. bipolar disorder, depression).
• Alcohol and illicit drug use disorders.
• Childhood sexual abuse.
• Low income level.
• Difficult to access this group to give them health information.
• Men are often too ashamed of their suicidal thoughts to mention that they have them.

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Useful links for men and women

• Beyond Blue www.beyondblue.org.au
• Men Helpline www.menshealthandwellbeing.org.au
• Lifeline http://www.justlook.org.au/

Older Men and Women



High number of suicides occur, however other causes of death dominate.
Impulsivity is less of a factor.
Suicide more calculated, less opportunities for rescue.
Suicidal thinking less common in this group but, when it does occur, it indicates a high risk of suicide.
Few suicides occur in the context of terminal illness or can be regarded as ‘rational’ (Draper B. Prevention of Suicide in Old Age. MJA. 162(10): 533 – 534.)
Risk factors:
• Loss of partner
• Isolation
• Depression, though contribution of mental health disorders is less than in the younger age groups (Andrews G, Hall W, Teeson M, Henderson S. (1999) The Mental Health of Australians Mental Health Branch, Cwealth Dept of Health and Aged Care)
• Ill health
• Alcoholism
• Carer stress
• Cultural issues
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Useful links


• Beyond Blue www.beyondblue.org.au
• Men Helpline www.menshealthandwellbeing.org.au
• Lifeline http://www.justlook.org.au/