RISK FACTORS FOR
DEVELOPING A MENTAL
HEALTH DISORDER

There are numerous significant life stages and transitions, circumstances, major stressors, and traumatic events that can trigger mental health problems. When you notice SIGNS that someone may be struggling and you know they have one or more of the following risk factors, please be extra vigilant.

RISK FACTORS FOR
DEVELOPING A MENTAL
HEALTH DISORDER

There are numerous significant life stages and transitions, circumstances, major stressors, and traumatic events that can trigger mental health problems. When you notice SIGNS that someone may be struggling and you know they have one or more of the following risk factors, please be extra vigilant.

LIFE STAGES AND TRANSITIONS

  • Childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood
    • 75% of first instances of mental health disorder occur before the age of 24.
    • Transitioning to middle school
    • Transitioning to high school
    • Transitioning to college
    • Moving to a new home/school
    • Moving out of the family home
    • Moving far from home
    • Finding and starting a first adult job
  • Looking for a partner
  • Living with a partner
  • Getting married
  • The Perinatal Period
    • Trying to get pregnant
    • Experiencing infertility
    • Being pregnant
    • Losing a pregnancy
  • Immediate post-pregnancy
  • Parenting
    • Anxiety
    • Depression from sleep deprivation
    • PTSD from colic
    • Having a child with a disability or mental health disorder
    • Work/family balance challenges
    • Expenses related to having children
  • Work stresses
    • starting a job
    • losing a job
    • conflict at work
  • Becoming an empty nester
  • Perimenopause – SEE SIGNS -ADULTS
  • Menopause
  • Becoming a caregiver to sibling, parent, etc.
  • Loss of a parent
  • Retirement
  • Financial inability to retire
  • Moving from family home to assisted living or nursing home
  • Loss of spouse/partner, family members, friends

 

LIFE CIRCUMSTANCES

  • Financial insecurity – living in or growing up in poverty
  • Homelessness
  • Having a learning disability
    • Those with learning disabilities are 46% more likely to attempt suicide.
    • Among women with a learning disability, 1 in 6 will attempt suicide.
  • Being in the LGBTQ+ community
    • 40% of LGBTQ youth seriously consider suicide.
    • LGBTQ+ adults are twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to other adults.
  • Having a family history of mental illness
  • Being over-sensitive to sound, smell, touch, taste, and visual stimuli
  • Experiencing extreme family dysfunction
  • Experiencing substance misuse/abuse
  • Having poor social supports
  • Extreme work stress

TOP FIVE LIFE STRESSORS

These events are considered the top 5 major life stressors. Some of these can occur anywhere in a lifetime.

  • A move
  • A death
  • Divorce
  • Job loss
  • Major injury or having a chronic illness

TRAUMA

Sometimes, trauma is the result of a specific event. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “A traumatic event is a shocking, scary, or dangerous experience that can affect someone emotionally and physically. Experiences like natural disasters (such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods), acts of violence (such as assault, abuse, terrorist attacks, and mass shootings), as well as car crashes and other accidents can all be traumatic.”

Other times, trauma results from long-lasting highly stressful or dangerous situations such as living through a pandemic or experiencing abuse. Please take special note if you observe signs of a possible mental health disturbance in someone who has also experienced or is experiencing trauma.

The “top five life stressors” can all cause trauma.
Trauma can also be caused by many other experiences including the following:

  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Loss of a parent
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Being a victim of domestic violence
  • Bullying – at home, school, in the workplace, online, by police, or in any relationship
  • Living with someone with a serious mental illness
  • Being the target of a hate crime
  • Ongoing persecution – eg., based on race, religion, political beliefs
  • Being falsely accused and experiencing damaging repercussions
  • Being stalked
  • Being arrested
  • Being a whistleblower
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Combat experience

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW FEEL(S) SUICIDAL, go to the emergency room, call a mental health professional who can talk to you NOW, or call the police and say you have a mental health crisis, not a criminal situation!

In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

FIND INTERNATIONAL HOTLINES

Text HOME to The Crisis Textline at 741741. They are available 24/7 in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, and Ireland.

See Also: HELPING SOMEONE WHO IS SUICIDAL