Protective factors are characteristics that make it less likely that an individual will contemplate suicide.  They are the skills, strengths and resources that enhance an individual’s ability to respond effectively to stressful event, build personal resilience and counter-balance risk factors (Living is for Everyone, LIFE, 2007; SPA, 2010).  Often risk and protective factors are at opposing ends of the same continuum (LIFE, 2007; Mendoza & Rosenberg, 2010); for example mental illness (risk factor) and mental well-being (protective factor) are both extremes of mental health.

The aim for professionals working with a young person at risk of suicidality is to reduce or minimise the impact of risk factors and improve his or her protective factors.  By doing so, his or her personal resilience increases and they are better able to respond to stressful events without feeling suicide is their only option.

Protective factors for young people can include (LIFE, 2007; Resnick et. al., 1997; SPA, 2010):

  • Personal resilience
  • Good physical health
  • Social and emotional well-being
  • Adaptive coping and problem solving skills
  • Supportive and connectedness to family
  • Supportive and connectedness to friends and school
  • Sense of meaning and control in one’s life
  • Access to affordable and appropriate services
  • No alcohol or drug problems
  • No family history of suicide or mental illness
  • Limited access to means, such as medications, firearms, alcohol