Psychology Courses / Course / Chapter

What Is Suicide? - Definition, Triggers, Underlying Causes & Prevention

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Suicide is a common and often preventable tragedy where one takes their own life. See examples of reasons and triggers and methods of prevention through therapy, medication, substance use treatment, and family therapy. Updated: 05/19/2022


The following lesson defines suicide. If you or a loved one are considering suicide or struggling with mental health conditions, know that there is help. For resources and help, please visit or

Warren is in a dangerous situation. He's been living with depression for a while, but recently things have gotten worse. He's lost his job, and his family is at risk of losing their home to foreclosure. He thinks that his family might be better off if he's dead, and they can collect the insurance money. More and more, he thinks about this.

Suicide is the act of taking one's own life. In 2010, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for Americans, with over 38,000 reported suicides. Many of the people who die by suicide live with a mood disorder or other mental health condition. Let's look closer at the reasons, triggers, and prevention of suicide.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Stress Disorders: Definition and Perspectives

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 Suicide
  • 0:53 Reasons
  • 2:21 Triggers
  • 3:41 Prevention
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed


There are many reasons that people die by suicide. Five common reasons include:

  1. Depression is a common problem for people considering suicide. Though there are treatments for depression, when left untreated, it can be a significant issue that can lead to suicide. Remember that Warren has been living with depression for a while now. This could be a driving factor behind his thoughts of suicide.
  2. Mental Health Conditions That Lead to Psychosis, like hearing voices, can also be a reason for suicide. For this reason, patients living with mental health conditions, like schizophrenia or a personality disorder, are at a higher risk than the general population for suicide.
  3. Mental Health Conditions That Lead to Impulsive Thoughts can also lead to suicide. A person who has low impulse control, such as those living with bipolar disorder, might make decisions when feeling temporarily low or when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This could lead to impulsively deciding to die by suicide.
  4. Feeling Like There is No Other Option is another common reason for suicide. People who feel helpless or don't see another option don't actually want to die, but attempted suicide is the only way they know how to ask for the help they need. Unfortunately, attempted suicide can sometimes backfire, leading to actual suicide. Thoughts of suicide can be overcome, and suicide is not the only option.
  5. Terminal Illness can sometimes lead people to make a rational decision to take their own lives, as opposed to slowly and painfully dying of an illness.


There are many reasons that may influence a person to complete suicide. There are also many risk factors, or triggers, that can lead to suicide.

Let's go back to Warren. He has depression, which is both a cause and a trigger of suicide. In fact, one of the main risk factors for suicide is a mental health condition. Whether it's depression or schizophrenia, having a mental health condition significantly raises the risk that a person will complete suicide.

Warren is also feeling hopeless. He's lost his job, and his home is about to be foreclosed. He doesn't know how he'll pay the bills or provide for his family. Hopelessness is another trigger for suicide. Warren doesn't really talk to his wife about his depression or his thoughts of suicide. He feels like it's unmanly and that he needs to hide it. He's isolating himself, and isolation, too, is a risk factor. People who have few friends or aren't able to talk to their friends or loved ones are at a higher risk for suicide.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Resources created by teachers for teachers

Over 30,000 video lessons & teaching resources‐all in one place.
Video lessons
Quizzes & Worksheets
Classroom Integration
Lesson Plans

I would definitely recommend to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.

Jennifer B.
Jennifer B.
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account