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Protective or Inhibitory Factors

In assessment, it is also important to look for protective or inhibitory factors as well as warning signs. Protective factors are those that when activated or discussed, may actually inhibit the client from raking action to commit suicide. 

Social Support Factors


Significant Others

  • Number
  • Family
  • Close friends
  • Neighbors
  • Coworkers

External Social Supports

  • Professionals with crisis management or therapeutic skills

Willingness of clients to use supports


Level of Social Acceptance experienced


Protective Factors


Problem-solving skills

  • Has history of ability to solve problems and create solutions
  • Has demonstrated skills for handling emotional crises

Future Plans

  • Expression of concrete and detailed future plans

Family Commitments

  • Raising children
  • Care for Siblings

Religious or Spiritual beliefs


Cultural Factors

  • African American
  • Cultural beliefs against suicide

Willingness to sign a No-Harm Contract


Of course, there are exceptions to these factors that may make them risk factors. For instance, in some cultures suicide may be endorsed as a means of protest or redemption. In addition, although the commitment to care for and see children grow may be an inhibitory factor, it may become a risk factor if the client perceives the children would be better off without the client.

Counselors also need to be alert to client denial and the lack of complete truthfulness in discussing these factors. Brems (2000) suggests that while protective factors need to be explored carefully, they should also be approached with some skepticism.