What are the protective factors against suicide?

Updated: Sep 25, 2018
  • Author: Stephen Soreff, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Answer

Answer

The clinician should also assess for protective factors. Things that can serve to protect against suicide include the following:

  • Involvement in social networks of friends, family, and co-workers – networks support the individual, give meaning to life, and provide the individual with a group of people who can detect and respond to the individual's isolating and withdrawing behaviors.
  • Having a major long-term goal –  a long-term goal allows one to see small obstacles and losses in a different perspective.
  • Having a pet, such as a dog or cat – pets need a human presence to take care of them, which offers the individual a reason for living. They also provide unconditional love and acceptance.
  • Having a therapist one feels connected to – this provides a person the individual can call when in distress. The key to treatment is talking about and sharing feelings and thoughts, not acting upon them.
  • Pre-emptively taking a depression test – screening tests such as the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI, BDI-1A, BDI-II) allow the individual to assess his or her feelings and the results can be shared with a healthcare professional (see the item above).
  • Having a future event to look forward to – a child’s graduation, a wedding, the holidays, etc.
  • Having a strong religious faith that does not sanction suicide and affirms life.
  • Having someone in your life who is dependent on you.
  • Being in a loving relationship or partnership.
  • Refraining from keeping firearms in the house, or making sure that there is no ammunition available.
  • Making sure the individual is never alone – living with someone (a spouse, a friend, a roommate, etc.).
  • Using suicide and crisis hotlines.
  • Seeking effective treatment of the underlying psychiatric disorder.
  • Recognizing that suicide represents a permanent solution to a temporary condition or situation.
  • Having someone to talk with and who listens – having someone who can say “I hear you.”
  • Having and seeking meaning in your life – Viktor Fankl's method of identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome.

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