Module 2: Recognizing Suicide Risk

Triggering Events: Things That Happen to People

Triggering events are experiences in a faith member’s life that may lead them to become more at risk for suicide.

Triggering events can be thought of as a special type of risk factor. Where other risk factors, such as depression or impulsivity, increase a person’s risk by making them more likely to engage in suicide or suicidal ideation, triggering events are experiences that increase this risk in the near-term future. They can be truly traumatic, life changing events in the faith member’s life or they may only seem that way to the faith member. That is, a new event, such as a loss of a job or of a relationship, which others may brush off, could be a tipping point for someone suffering from depression or struggling with suicidal thoughts.

If you recall that risk factors for a common cold are things that make it more likely that someone will get a cold if exposed to the virus, then triggering events are like exposures to the virus.

It’s very important to realize that triggering events can be real, perceived, or anticipated. What matters is not whether they seem “large” in scope to you, but how they are perceived by the faith member relative to their perceived resources for coping with the problems. Whatever their ontological status, triggering events increase risk.