Protective factors for suicide are characteristics or circumstances that may help to decrease a person’s suicide risk by contributing to resiliency. Resiliency can be understood as our ability to handle and recover from the challenges we face in our everyday life (Shahram et al. 2021). Protective factors do not entirely remove the risk of suicide, though. For more information on risk factors and warning signs, we encourage you to visit our Risk Factors and Warning Sign page here.
Protective factors and resiliency are growing areas of research in suicide prevention and may not have been studied as thoroughly as risk factors and warning signs of suicide. As such, we’ve provided a general list of protective factors that have been identified in the literature.
Protective Factors for Suicide
Protective factors exist and are developed on an individual, community, or societal level. While individual refers to personal factors, community factors reflect community experiences that can reduce suicide risk, and societal factors refer to the cultural and environmental features within the broader society.
Individual protective factors include:
- Good self-esteem or a strong sense of self
- Having hope for the future and engaging in future planning
- Effective coping and problem-solving skills
- Supportive relationships with friends and family
- Involvement in positive activities
Community protective factors include:
- Inclusive and safe environments (e.g. schools and neighbourhoods)
- Feeling connected to school, community, and other social institutions
- Availability of consistent and culturally sensitive healthcare
Societal protective factors include:
- Reduced access to lethal means of suicide
- Cultural, religious, or moral objections to suicide
(Sources: Fonesca-Pedrero et al., 2022; National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2022; Shahram et al., 2021).
Resources for Further Learning:
Protective and Risk Factors Explained | New Brunswick Health Council (nbhc.ca)
This resource explains the concepts of protective and risk factors for our health more generally. It helps to explain how protective and risk factors interact and influence our lives and health.
WRSPC Series: Resilience and Protective Factors
In 2020, a WRSPC volunteer created four blog posts on the different types of resilience and protective factors. Follow these links to learn about each specific type: Resilience & Protective Factors: Spiritual, Resilience & Protective Factors: Social, Resilience & Protective Factors: Psychological, Resilience & Protective Factors: Biophysical.
This webpage discusses the meaning of resilience and provides links to further information about how you can cultivate and practice resilience.
Fonesca-Pedrero, E. et al. (2022). Risk and Protective Factors in Adolescent Suicidal Behaviour: A Network Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2022). Risk and Protective Factors. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed from: https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/factors/index.html
Shahram, S. et al. (2020). Promoting “Zest for Life”: A Systematic Literature review of Resiliency Factors to Prevent Youth Suicide. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 31(1), 4-24.