Understanding suicide

The reasons people take their own lives are complex. There is no single reason why a person attempts or dies by suicide. It is often not preceded by a single event or condition and is more likely to arise from an interaction between many vulnerabilities and risk factors in a person’s life. Suicide may also be influenced by social and economic circumstances and differences between cultures and individuals’ experiences within society.

Some populations may be disproportionally impacted by suicide and understanding the different needs for priority populations, can assist in our approach to suicide prevention. To learn more, visit the priority populations section of the Life in Mind portal.

Individual experiences of the social, economic and physicals environments in which people live can all impact suicidal behaviour. These are called the ‘social determinants of health and wellbeing’ and may increase or decrease a person’s risk of suicide.

Suicide risk can be influenced by:

  • Individual and lifestyle factors – age, gender, mental health and wellbeing, physical health, alcohol and other drug use, experience of trauma, childhood abuse and neglect, etc.
  • Social and community networks – presence of supportive family and social relationships, community connection, belonging, etc.
  • Working conditions – level of education, employment, work environment, etc.
  • Living conditions – access to suitable housing, household composition, access to health care, etc.
  • Socioeconomic factors – individual socioeconomic status, living areas socioeconomic characteristics, etc.
  • Environmental factors – geographical location, experiencing adverse climate events, etc.

Factors that may increase suicide risk are often interconnected. For example, a person’s access to suitable housing may be limited by age, employment, or other socioeconomic factors.

How do social determinants inform policy and practice?

Understanding the social determinants of suicide is essential to inform suicide prevention policy, planning and practice in Australia. They help to identify risk factors, address health inequities, and develop suicide prevention strategies.

In this section


Clarifying suicide myths and facts can lead to an informed understanding of suicide and reduces stigma.

Warning signs

Behaviours that may indicate a person may be at immediate risk of suicide.