Module 2: Recognizing Suicide Risk


People who are thinking about suicide often show warning signs.

These warning signs can be verbal or non-verbal, and some might be more difficult to detect from the outside. You also should consider underlying risk factors that can increase the likelihood for suicidal behavior. These risk factors, like depression or other psychiatric disorders, alcohol dependence, past suicide attempts, a personal history of family abuse or exposure to the suicide of a family member, or access to or familiarity with lethal means, can inform your assessment of an individual. Finally, triggering events can increase risk for suicidal behavior. Suicide and suicidal behavior often occurs in the presence of numerous warning signs, risk factors, and triggering events; however, sometimes suicidal behavior may occur when only a few or even one of these is present. Therefore, do your best to follow-up and assess any faith member that expresses any of the items listed above.

Taking Steps

There are many powerful things you can offer a person showing warning signs of suicide, including non-judgmental empathy. In order to make a connection with a suicidal individual, the person has to believe you “get” why they are suicidal.  Once you establish a connection with him or her, you can then help by offering connections to others, hope that things can improve, emotional, spiritual, psychological and social support, and a safety plan. You can also refer the person to a mental health care provider for necessary treatment, which may also prevent suicide. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, there may be an underlying mental illness or substance abuse problem that requires treatment. Therefore, it is a wise idea to refer most potentially suicidal clients to a mental health provider for diagnosis and appropriate treatment, even if they appear to be experiencing a passing crisis.

Matching Activity: Risk Factors, Warning Signs, Triggering Events, and Protective Factors »