Module 1 > Catastrophic events and suicide > Risk and protective factors

CDC’s Injury Center has published a list of risk factors, or characteristics associated with suicide, and protective factors, which insulate individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior. For example, financial loss or easy access to lethal means may increase suicide risk, while family and community support may buffer individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior. See the full list of risk and protective factors here. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center provides several examples of how risk factors vary across groups.

Reflection questions

  1. Which risk factors do you think are pronounced during infrastructure disruptions?

  2. Which protective factors do you think are compromised during infrastructure disruptions?

  3. How have agencies and organizations in your locale taken action to address these factors during the coronavirus pandemic?

Based on an analysis of past catastrophic events and current trends, the impact of COVID-19 may increase suicide risk by way of:

At the same time, even though many factors point to suicides rising in the context of catastrophic events, it is not a foregone conclusion, and there are things people can do to prevent suicide by addressing risk and protective factors.


Broomfield Youth for Youth (Y4Y) is a group of local middle and high school students in Colorado whose work focuses on youth substance use prevention, improved wellbeing, and positive relationships. Y4Y adapted Sources of Strength, an evidence-based program shown to decrease suicide risk, for its intensive internship project in summer 2020. The interns took part remotely and focused on connectivity and resilience. Through training, weekly youth-led conversations, and activities such as the What Helps Me campaign, Y4Y Teen Advisors and adult community partners learned to support each other and their peers, and helped normalize mental health topics and issues across their community. Their work helps lessen the stigma around mental health problems that makes people unwilling to seek help—a risk factor for suicide—and fosters community support and connectedness—a protective factor.

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Image credit: BroomfieldY4Y