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Protective factors against
suicide
There are many factors in our lives
that can help to protect us and
others against suicide.
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Protective factors against suicide
The factors that can lead someone to suicide can be complex
and often involve a mixture of causal and circumstantial risk
factors.
If you would like to read more about risk factors for suicide click
here
There are also a number of factors called protective factors,
that can greatly help to reduce the risk of suicide…
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What are protective factors?
Protective factors can be seen as the actions or efforts a
person can take to reduce the negative impact of issues like
mental health problems, transition from military life or
isolation from friends and family.
Positive steps can be made by someone experiencing such
issues or you could support someone to take these positive
steps to make changes in their life to protect against suicide.
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Protective factors
There are many protective factors that can help to reduce the risk of suicide.
Some important ones are:
• Staying connected to community
• Significant others (having someone to share concerns with, and to care
for)
• Personal and environmental factors
• Physical and mental health
• Financial security
• Spirituality and belief
Not all of these will be relevant to every individual, but some will be relevant
for most people.
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Staying connected to community
Being connected to a community is an important protective factor for
well-being.
It means being regularly involved with friends, family and community
groups to benefit from unconditional support that comes with these
connections.
Being connected with other people and the broader community can
provide structure to your day and allows for future planning. This in
turn gives purpose to directions and allows hopelessness to become
hopefulness.
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Family, friends and mates (significant others)
Just as staying connected to community can provide more
meaning and structure in a person’s life, having a
relationship with another person (significant other) can also
be a powerful protective factor for suicide by reducing
isolation.
A significant other can be a spouse or partner, a parent or
child, a close mate or an old friend. Having someone to
share concerns with, talk with and to care for (and be cared
for), all contribute to a meaningful and valuable life.
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Family, friends and mates (significant others)
Sometimes people don’t want to burden others with their
problems. However, stop and think about how you would feel if
the situation was reversed. Would you want someone you cared
about to talk to you if they were struggling?
Knowing that there are important people in your life you can rely
on and talk to can help to ease the burden of stress by sharing
the ‘load’ with someone who cares for you.
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Physical and mental health
Being mentally and physically healthy are important to help you
participate in a meaningful way in life, to work and to engage in
significant relationships.
Physical health can sometimes be limited by factors such as age and
injuries, but there are still ways to take care of and increase your
physical health with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Good mental health refers to the emotional, psychological and
spiritual wellbeing of a person. You may not always have complete
control over all of these elements but you can make achievable plans
that focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do.
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Physical and mental health
As with physical health, a good diet and regular exercise benefits
your mental health. Regular exercise can be a good way to
manage stress because chemicals, such as endorphins, that are
released in your body during exercise, are mood-regulating and
make you feel better.
Making the necessary changes for good health and wellbeing
may involve assessing your state of health, making an achievable
plan, and setting a starting point.
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Personal protective factors
Good physical and mental health, close friends and family and staying
connected to the community are personal protective factors.
Other personal factors can include:
• A strong sense of self-worth and hope for the future
• A sense of personal control
• Resilience (being able to bounce back from challenges in life)
Being resilient is about developing coping strategies, learning new
skills and being adaptable. It is something that can be learned and
practiced.
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Environmental protective factors
Environmental factors that can be protective include:
• Safe and stable housing
• Being responsible for others
• Opportunities to participate meaningfully in work, leisure or
community groups.
It is the interaction of these environmental factors with the
personal factors of a person’s life that can protect and reduce
the risk of suicide.
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Financial security
Another important protective factor against the risk of suicide is having
financial security. Being able to pay for basic necessities like food and
housing costs reduces stress on a person and their family.
Financial security for ex-service personnel is sometimes complex...
with pensions, readiness for work and job satisfaction being competing
goals.
Understanding financial security can be an important step to help with
relieving financial stresses, therefore getting timely and qualified
financial advice is a good place to start.
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Spirituality and belief
A belief system is not necessarily about religion. It is a set of
beliefs that sustains you and gives you a reason to go on. Belief
is personal and can take on many forms.
As a protective factor it can help by:
• Being part of a community
• Helping to find meaning in life.
Searching for meaning and answers to life’s challenges can be
valuable as a protective factor, and it may be helpful for you to
explore your value systems more closely.
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Getting timely help
The timeliness of help is another important
protective factor. It’s less about intervening in a
crisis, than it is about getting the right support at
the right time.
Having timely help and information can avoid a
crisis and lead to improved, sustainable levels of
well-being.
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Next steps
One or all of these factors can be important to address in your
life or the life of someone you are concerned about.
Recovering from challenging circumstances is a process and
takes time, so making achievable plans to make positive changes
in your life or someone you are supporting is a positive first step.
To find out more about these factors or about dealing with the
causal and circumstantial risk factors of suicide, use the
resources on this website.
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Protective factors against suicide