Many experts believe a number of things determine how vulnerable a person is to suicidal thinking and behaviour. These include: •life history - for example having a traumatic experience during childhood, a history of sexual or physical abuse or a history of parental neglect •mental health - for example developing a serious mental health condition, such as schizophrenia (see below) •lifestyle - for example if you misuse drugs ormisuse alcohol •employment - such as poor job security, low levels of job satisfaction or being unemployed •relationships - being socially isolated, being a victim of bullying or having few close relationships •genetics and family history (see below)
In addition to these, a stressful event may push a person 'over the edge', leading to suicidal thinking and behaviour. It may only take a minor event, such as having an argument with a partner. Or it may take one or more stressful or upsetting events before a person feels suicidal, such as the break-up of a significant relationship, a partner dying or being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Mental health conditions
It is estimated that 90% of people who attempt or die by suicide have one or more mental health conditions. Conditions that lead to the biggest risk of suicide are described below. Severe depression
Severe depression causes symptoms of low mood, tiredness, loss of interest, despair and hopelessness that interfere with a person's life. People with severe depression are much more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. Bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder causes a person's mood to swing from feeling very high and happy to feeling very low and depressed. About 1 in 3 people with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at least once. People with bipolar disorder are 20 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. Most people with bipolar disorder end their lives shortly after entering a depressive phase. Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition that typically causes hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not real), delusions (believing in things that are not true) and changes in behaviour. It is estimated that 1 in 20 people with schizophrenia will take their own life.
People with schizophrenia are most at risk of suicide when their symptoms first begin. This is because they frequently suffer loss at this time - for example, loss of employment and relationships. The risk tends to reduce over time. People with schizophrenia are also at increased risk of self harm. Borderline personality disorder
Borderline personality disorder is characterised by unstable emotions, disturbed thinking patterns, impulsive behaviour and intense but unstable relationships with other people. Self-harm is often a key symptom of this condition. It is estimated that just over half of people with borderline personality disorder will make at least one suicide attempt.
People with a borderline personality disorder often have a history of childhood sexual abuse and have a particularly high risk of suicide. Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. People with anorexia feel fat and try to keep their weight as low as possible. They do this by strictly controlling and limiting what they eat, as well as sometimes inducing vomiting. It is estimated that around 1 in 5 people with anorexia will make at least one suicide attempt. Other risk factors for suicide
Other things that can make a person more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts, include: •being gay, lesbian or transgender, arising from the prejudice these groups often face •being in debt