Suicide Prevention

  • Washington County Crisis Line: 262.365.6565
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800.273.8255


THE MORE YOU KNOW… about risk factors, associated behaviors, and protective factors known to be associated with suicide ideation and attempt, the better equipped you will be to SAVE-A-LiFE. The following can play a critical role in the prevention of suicide attempt and loss.

NOTE: Risk factors indicate someone is at a heightened risk of suicidal thoughts, whereas behaviors can indicate an immediate risk of suicidal action. Think of behaviors as an “outward expression” of what a person is thinking and feeling. Also, behaviors can be observed in individuals. Risk factors, however, can exist in individuals and the community at large.

Risk factors are not the same thing as behaviors or warning signs and do not predict or cause suicide attempt. They are however factors that have been documented through research and shown to contribute to suicidal ideation, behaviors, and action. The more risk factors and observed behaviors, the greater potential and need to take lifesaving action and get help immediately.


  • Access to lethal means
  • Change in a close relationship
  • Chronic physical pain or terminal illness
  • Death of a family member, close friend, or pet
  • Family history or personal mental disorder(s)
  • Family/friend(s) died by suicide
  • Feeling little personal control over one’s LiFE
  • Financial instability
  • Having been bullied or harassed
  • Heightened status of success and expectation
  • History of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse
  • History of childhood trauma
  • Lacking a sense of purpose
  • Lack of “positive” support system/people
  • Lack of “healthy” coping skills
  • Lack of health insurance
  • Identify as L.G.B.T.Q.
  • Increasing age (especially among men)
  • Living alone
  • No high school education
  • Prior history of suicide attempt(s)
  • Public humiliation or shame
  • Sense of abandonment (current or past)
  • Unwanted relocation or move
  • Witness of war/combat or domestic violence

Any of the following could be a pre-indication to a suicide attempt. New or increasing behaviors, especially those following a significant and difficult life change should especially be given attention. Not all suicidal individuals share verbal or written warnings with friends and family but 50-75% do. Some threaten multiple times without an attempt before action is taken. Every threat or questionable/unusual behavior should be taken seriously.


  • Acting and reacting impulsively
  • Being incarcerated or losing one’s freedom
  • Considering, researching, or gaining access to lethal means
  • Communicating a feeling of burden to others
  • Communicating a feeling of personal failure
  • Demonstrating aggression/dramatic mood changes
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Exhibiting episode(s) of severe depression
  • Facing homelessness or having no permanent residence
  • Getting expelled from school or losing a job
  • Having inflexible thinking
  • Increasing (ab)use of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Expressing no fear of death or potential pain of dying
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Stating a desire to die or just end it all
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped
  • Threatening to take action to end one’s life
  • Withdrawing from people and personal interests

WORDS, TERMS, and PROPER USE (as published by the CDC)

  • Completed suicide – This terminology implies achieving a desired outcome whereas those involved in the mission of “reducing disease, premature death, and discomfort and disability” (J. Last, Dictionary of Epidemiology 1988) would view this event as undesirable. Alternate term: suicide
  • Nonfatal suicide – This terminology portrays a contradiction. “Suicide” indicates a death while “nonfatal” indicates that no death occurred. Alternate term: suicide attempt
  • Successful suicide – This term also implies achieving a desired outcome whereas those involved in the mission of “reducing disease, premature death, and discomfort and disability” would view this event as undesirable. Alternate term: suicide
  • Suicidality – This terminology is often used to refer simultaneously to suicidal thoughts and suicidal behavior. These phenomena are vastly different in occurrence, associated factors, consequences and interventions so should be addressed separately. Alternate terms: suicidal thoughts and suicidal behavior


  • Failed at suicide – Like “Failed attempt”, this term suggests that the individual failed and to not be a failure, they must use a more LiFE-threatening method to ensure they die. Living should not be looked at as a sign of failure. Alternate term: survivor or suicide attempt survivor
  • Committed Suicide – This term suggests that there was a crime committed and is linked to the historic term of a person being “committed to a mental hospital for the crazy or mentally insane” where all rights are stripped away and many were treated extreme and harsh cruelty, adding to the continued stigma associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Alternate term: died by suicide
  • Killed themselves – Though the individual who died, passed by an act to end their intense psychological pain, this term suggests that the brain (an organ), when under severe suicidal distress, makes the person who dies “at fault” for their own death. Just as we would not blame a person who dies by a heart (an organ) attack for their death, it is discouraged to blame the person who dies by suicide for their own passing with the use of this term. In each case, risk factors, behaviors, and intervention/treatment options are available. If and how they are used can play a significant role in the recovery process and enjoyment of LiFE – but not all people have access to, engage in, or follow through with treatment options, leading to premature death for far too many. Alternate term: died by suicide or died from severe psychological distress

NOTE: Any communication (gesture, act, or threat) of suicide should be taken seriously, as individuals who are mentally well and stable are unlikely to make such statements. Helping someone experiencing a level of psychological pain that leads to verbalizing a desire to end their LiFE (regardless of method or statistical severity of such method) should still be engaged with empathy and support. Healing from the risk factors and behaviors driving such statements and the desire to end an existing state of psychological pain is most easily embraced when language and communication style (tone, body language, etc) are non-threatening, non-judgmental, and pro-emPOWERment for the individual.