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Predisposing Factors are things a person is born with, like temperament or genetic makeup, or born into, like family history or culture. The Alaska Suicide Prevention Council has provided an easier way to understand Predisposing Factors: Predisposing Factors can make a person more vulnerable or less vulnerable to suicide risk. For instance, some people are born with an easy going temperament. They can meet life’s problems with a smile and keep on going. They are less vulnerable to psychological pain. Other people have an inherited predisposition to develop depression, making them more vulnerable to extreme psychological pain. Cultures that have a history of trauma and cultural dislocation are more vulnerable. We now know that historical trauma alters the epigenetic expressions of genes within a person's brain.


Contributing Factors exist in social environments of our community and the choices a person makes. A supportive community that provides both supports and limits (social inclusion and curfews, for instance), is protective. It makes extreme psychological pain less likely. On the other hand, substance abuse contributes to risk.


A brain disorder, especially a mood disorder, or a substance use disorder is a major contributing factor. It has been estimated that as many as ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable, treatable, psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.

Contributing factors are all open doors to suicide prevention because they are connected. We know that if we address one, we affect others. For example, reducing the stigma surrounding brain disease increases people's likelihood of getting effective mental health care. A community "norm" that we ask for help when we need it reduces stigma and makes it okay to ask for help. Community members who know how to recognize suicide warning signs and how to link a person at risk to help can prevent a tragic loss.


If we think of suicide prevention in this way, we can see how many factors that we, as a community, can control which interact to increase or decrease risk, and the ways in which each of us can play a part in preventing suicide. 

Precipitating Factors are events that serve as the final straw to a person vulnerable to suicide risk. They are usually associated with a loss of some kind, a death, the end of a relationship, loss of status or self-esteem, the loss of a pet.

When we understand these factors, normalize help-seeking behavior, and know how to connect a person who needs help to available resources, we build a suicide-safe community.

Next: 13 Reasons Why

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