Facts About Trauma & Suicide

Trauma is a psychological reaction to a harmful or life-threatening occurrence that is outside the range of normal experience and beyond control. Those with histories of trauma may be troubled by thoughts of suicide and some may attempt or complete suicide. Trauma’s impact is insidious, pervasive, life changing, and enduring. It most affects those vulnerable because of age or other personal factors. It influences responses to future stressors.

What are some examples of traumatic events or experiences?

Trauma can result from disasters (fires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc.), victimization and severe psychological abuse, physical assault, (e.g., rape, incest, molestation, domestic abuse), bodily injury, surgery, serious accidents, exposure to homicide, suicide, and other fatalities, as well as devastating interpersonal losses.

What are consequences of trauma that may increase suicide risk?

The effects of trauma may include anxiety, depression, hopelessness, despair, anger, hostility, social isolation, impulsiveness, alcohol or substance abuse, self-destructive behavior, humiliation, shame, guilt, lessened selfesteem, a loss of personal beliefs, and feeling ineffective, distrustful, or threatened.

How do these trauma-linked feelings and behaviors relate to suicide?

Trauma and its side effects are associated with greater suicide risk. A significant number of attempters and completers have a background of trauma. It makes those affected feel less connected or that they are burdens to their families and friends. This generates hopelessness and depression, which may produce a desire to die.

What are other suicide risk factors that may interact with trauma?

Serious risk factors that may be affected are a past history of suicidal behavior, existing serious mental illness (particularly with a co-occurring anxiety or panic disorder), alcohol and substance abuse, marital, family, or other interpersonal conflict, and a background involving abuse or violence.

Are there population groups may have a higher level of trauma-related suicide risk?

Trauma sufferers with a risk of suicide include self-injurers, those making frequent threats or non-fatal attempts, veterans and members of the military, physicians, emergency responders, sexual assault victims, individuals with brain injury, and physically and developmentally disabled persons.

What are some of the early warning signs of suicide risk?

Contact a mental health or medical provider if you encounter or experience any of these behaviors:

Hopelessness, emptiness, or apathy Rage, anger, or recklessness
Feeling helpless, trapped, out of control Increased drinking and/or drug use
Withdrawal from family or friends Anxiety, agitation, sleep problems
Dramatic mood changes Citing no reason for living, desire to die

What are the immediate danger signs of high suicide risk?

Immediately call MCES (610-279-6100) or 9-1-1, or 1-800- 273-TALK (National Suicide Lifeline) if you encounter:

Suicide attempts and losing a family member or close friend to suicide are extremely traumatic incidents.


If you or someone you know is thinking
about suicide, please call (610)279-6100