The aims of this study were to investigate risk factors for suicide attempts and propose a model explaining the associations among life events and suicide status. We assessed 263 subjects admitted following a suicide attempt to the Division of Psychiatry of the Department of Neurosciences of the University of Parma and compared them with 263 non-attempter clinical control subjects. Attempters reported significantly more adverse life events both in the last 6 months, and between the ages of 0–15 years than non-attempters. A multinomial logistic regression analysis with stepwise forward entry indicated that the best model to explain suicide status was one which included life events in the last 6 months, life events during age 0–15 years, and their interaction. First-time attempter status (vs. non-attempters) was more likely to be linked to life events in the last 6 months, the interaction between life events in the last 6 months and life events during age 0–15 years, and low social support. Those attempters with one or more prior attempts (repeat attempters) were more likely than non-attempters to be linked to the interaction between life events in the last 6 months and life events during age 0–15 years, and to higher rates of psychopharmacological treatment before the index admission. Guided by these findings, monitoring the impact of early-life and recent events in vulnerable individuals should be part of risk assessment and treatment.