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Bipolar Disorder Suicide

Rashmi Nemade, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D., edited by Kathryn Patricelli, MA Updated: Feb 27th 2017

It is very important that family and friends be watchful for signs of suicidal behavior. Suicidal behavior is not always obvious and is seldom predictable. However, there are some signs that can trigger family and friends to ask more direct questions, such as, "Are you feeling suicidal at all?" It is okay to ask people directly whether they are suicidal. There is not any danger that you will "put ideas in their head" as some family members and friends may fear.

suicide word collage A person's risk for committing bipolar suicide may be increased if they display any of the following behaviors:

  • talk about feeling suicidal or wanting to die
  • express a feeling of hopeless and believe that nothing will ever change or get better
  • feel helpless and like nothing that they do will make any difference
  • Feel like a burden on family and friends.
  • start abusing alcohol or drugs (or abuse drugs and alcohol that much harder)
  • begin the process of putting their affairs in order. This could include organizing finances or giving away possessions as a way of preparing for their death
  • writing a suicide note
  • become impulsive and start taking risks that put them in harm's way, or into situations where there is a danger of being killed

While some suicide attempts are carefully planned over time, others are impulsive acts that have not been terribly well thought out. Because of this, a valuable long-term strategy for helping manage suicide risk is to remove ALL tools and items that might be used to commit suicide from the person with depression's environment. It is impossible to remove all items that can be used to commit suicide though because people get creative about this sort of thing when they are motivated enough. However, doing all you can may be helpful.

If you think someone has become suicidal, it is appropriate to take the following steps to help keep that person safe:

  • Call a doctor, emergency room, or 911 (in the United States) right away to get immediate help
  • Ask the suicidal person directly if he or she is feeling suicidal. If they respond yes, then ask whether they have developed a suicide plan and if they have gathered together the tools they will use to carry out that plan.
  • Eliminate the suicidal person's access to things they might use to commit suicide. (medication, weapons, knives, etc.)
  • Stay with the suicidal person until help comes. Make sure the suicidal person is not left alone.

Because it is so difficult to accurately predict when people are actually at risk for committing suicide, it is generally appropriate to treat all instances of suicidality as real and serious threats, and to intervene every time. The risk of intervening every time, however, is that bipolar patients may stop talking about their suicidal thoughts after several false alarms, because they no longer want to be shuffled off to the hospital. Many patients will have ongoing low-level suicidal thoughts for long periods of time and not be in acute danger of acting on them. On the other hand, it is always possible for patients to impulsively act on long-standing suicidal thoughts if they happen to be triggered by particularly disturbing events or at an impulsive point in their mood cycle. The risk for bipolar suicide is highest when patients are in an impulsive state.

Family members and friends have to use careful and conservative judgment when deciding whether to call in the professionals. They will have to balance the person's safety against damage to their relationships with the person if it should turn out to be a false alarm. When there is any doubt as to the seriousness of the suicidal threat, it is best to err on the side of safety and to call in the professionals. Suicidal crises are terribly frightening events for family and friends to endure. It is important that family and friends realize that such crises are a normal (if unfortunate) part of more severe bipolar illnesses. They will generally pass if the person experiencing them can be helped through the crisis period.


Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

mum with BIPOLAR - S. - Jan 14th 2014

My mum was diagnosed with bipolar many years ago and i have grown up to cope with my mums changing moods. The hardest to deal with is when she becomes suicidal. Im 16 and have walked in on my mum after she's taken an ovedose twice as of yesterday and have seen her life support almost getting switched off around 4 years ago. Thankfully her suicide attempt yesterday was bad but could have been alot worse.

I have written this comment mainly for other people with bipolar that are feeling suicidal. ONCE YOU HAVE TAKEN YOUR LIFE YOU CAN'T CHANGE YOUR MIND. Think of your families; the people that care about you and have been there to support you. It will get better with the right help.

Response to Hannah - Casey - Sep 7th 2013

Hi Hannah,

I completely understand what you are going through and would like to share with you answers that really helped me find my way...and on my own terms.  There is help beyond simply "seeking professional help", please know this. (This also isn't a religious pitch.)

Maybe it resonates with you, or maybe not...but i know it worked for me when all hope seemed lost, and maybe worth a shot.   Please contact me anytime directly. 



Constant suicidal thoughts - Hannah - Apr 12th 2013

You know they say there is a normal period of time in between mood swings but even when I am manic I am so harsh on myself. Sure there is little bouts and I mean LITTLE bouts of self confidence are presented but it always keeps coming back to the feelings of complete and total worthlessness. I'm not sure how to deal with it anymore.. I know I should go on medications but I always have this lingering thought that even if I treat myself it's still a big waste of time seeing that I'm still the same gigantic waste of space time and life. I feel like isolating myself.. I have not spoken to any \\

battling bipolar for a long time - Todd - Oct 24th 2012

i have been battling bipolar for a long time.I feel suicidal right now.I know it will go away but i know it will come back to.I am just so tired of fighting it.I just want to rest.I dont want to hurt the people i love but i am so tired i can hardly cope.

Bipolar Disorder-3 Reasons It Does Not Define Me-Jan 28th - R Bryan Anthony - Jan 28th 2012

I am a person diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I at the age of 42. My birthday is coming up at Feb 10th and I am staring at the next year through the lens, cloudy and dimmed, by what I am discovering about my disorder. In a way, It has helped to uncover some mysteries to WHY I have acted or lived in my past…gave some clarity!

There are "3 Reasons My Bipolar Disorder Does Not Define Me" I want to live my life out to H.I.T. the mark or target I have my sights on in life.

Why allow my disorder to manage or assume responsibility for my future? I will not let it!

H. I. T. Bipolar Disorder Right Between the Eyes!

1. H-onesty: Being honest to yourself, your family, support group, docs, etc. is so vital when hitting your target! Lying for some is a disruptive habit or even a disorder in itself. However, you can be HONEST that you'll get through this ordeal of mood swings and feeling (at times) hurt, alone, discouraged, bitter, angry, lethargic and paling "pissed off!"

2. I-ntegrity: Integrity is key to "hitting your target" for success because you live a life people can trust. If people can trust you, then they are more apt to get to know you better. With better friends. you'll have a better opportunity for accountability. With accountability, you have the POWER to overcome the dangers and turmoils Bipolar delivers. Make your Yes a Yes and your No a No!

3. T-ruth: Truth is something people are having more and more conflict with these days. Just turn on the news channels and you wonder, "What's the damn truth?" Truth, I believe, is found in the peace you can get inside of you. The peace you have when you lay your head on your pillow at night.

I believe my truth comes from Someone BIGGER than I am. Without getting too philosophical or religious or scientific with you, I believe that, although I'm just a speck in this vast universe, I'M STILL IMPORTANT AND VITAL TO SOMEONE ELESE'S NEED!!

Above all else, you've got to be truthful to yourself!!

So, if you desire to H.I.T. the Target of getting ahold of your Bipolar Disorder, than begin with Honesty, Integrity and Truth.  

How much is enough? - Cross eyed Mary - Sep 17th 2011

Short comment?  How do you condence the pain and sorry you feel daily?  I personally am being hounded by a superfisor at work.  My work is up, I'm never late, I even got an award, but everytime I turn around he's changing processes on me.  Consistency is what I crave, but will never get.  So why bother to try?  Why bother at all?   I've tried suicide once...almost made it too, and swore I would never do it again and hurt my daughter but with so much anger, pain, insanity with my supervisor it hits me harder and harder every day.  My reports are fine.  My reports are too long.   My reports lack detail.  then back to my reports are too long. I'm getting sick all the time now just thinking of going back to the office.  Their response is why don't you just retire?  I'm 53.  I've been working for  (no laugh) the fedearl govt for 27 years.  I have had more bad managers than I can count but this latest just goes after me constantly, and no one will stop him.  So if they won't stop him, what other course do I have?  I need my job to have my health insurance so I can try to have treatment and medication.  They want me to do group therapy when all I can think of is hiding away.  I don't even know why I am here on this page typing this.  Nothing here can help.  I've read the comments and they mirror me.  Am I suicidal?  Do you really think I would tell if I was?  Shrinks always ask you that though dont they.....I know how to play the game.  I'm just peachy.............Love to all that suffer as I do, that have no control over their lives, that are stuck and just want to smile and know it is real.  When they ask me how I feel, I respond with "so how should I feel?"  I take so many drugs I don't know or remember what normal is like...but then again, normal is only a setting on a washing machine.   

Worn ot bt bipolar after 30 years of treatment - joe - Sep 14th 2011

I have been battling the Bipolar dragon for 30 years. I have been taking psych meds in lots of combinations. over 50 drugs in multiple comb. I am tired of this. I have a 16 yo . he is the only reason i have not ended my life.  I have decided that when he graduates , I will stop all psych and maintanance ;pills. i'll be 53. I hope to die of natural diseases before i'm 60. Let God decide if I live longer. Don;t believe in bornagain religions. The churches i tried were full of condesending groups.

I believe in native zuni, navajo beliefs. earth religions.

Suicidal Bipolar with Autistic Child - HappiestGirl - Mar 13th 2011

I have been struggling for years with bipolar disorder and the suicidal tendencies that ride like a rollercoaster since I was 12 years old.  I am now a 35 year old mother of two children.  My daughter (8) is "typical" and my son (6) has was diagnosed with Autism at 16-months of age.  I have just recently undergone a hysterectomy due to cervical cancer and have made it throug the majority of the "recovery", but the pressing depression has never been so bad.  Every third thought I have - whether I'm alone or not - is a yearning to die.  The only thing that's keeping me here by a dwindling thread is the fear of what would happen to my son who is so incapable of caring for himself and my daughter would never understand.

Is there any advice out there to be had?

To Teen - Savilla Long - Mar 3rd 2011

I'm not a licenced doctor but i'm telling you that you should get some help. I'm bipolar and A.D.D. I can't tell you what to do but i'm going to tell you I know that you can't control it and its not going to get better. So if your not willing to get help atleast find someone your comfortable talking with or you could email. I don't mind to help or talk with you. Suicide is to high among those with bipolar.

Teen - SKStokes - Feb 13th 2011

I'm sixteen and doing a research paper on bipolarity in teenagers, mostly because over the past year I've begun to wonder "am I bipolar?" over the summer I tested out of highschool and started college because I thought I was ready. I thought I knew enough to keep up with people who completed all four years of high school, compared to my two. Now, in my second semester, all I want to do is drop all my classes and sleep the day away.  cut myself on and off for two and a half years, and it still becomes a release for me at times when I don't know what else to do. During those years I attempted suicide three times. My parents still don't know. And I just realized I'm not sure why I'm writting this comment. Maybe to ask if I should talk to someone, or wait and see if it gets better?  Even entertaining these thoughts makes me feel weak and as if I'm failing someone, the world.

suicidal bipolar - Moody2010 - Sep 27th 2010

I am bipolar , and I have recurring thoughts of suicide and how i would do it. I think i would overdose on pills of some sort after research to make sure that it would actually kill me and not just cause medical damage and then i have to live with that.

recently i have really been fighting these thougths off, they just come and go come and go. but those days that it comes, are the longest hardest days of my life. and im sure they are long for the people around me.

I have tried to commit suicide earlier in life when i was a teenager, and again in my 20s im not in my 30s and seems like it makes its rounds with me. i have always self medicated esp as a teen, i did drugs and alcohol most of my teen years, into my twenties, i was hopitalized when iw as 17, due to suicide attempt addiction and depression.

i was not diagnosed with bipolar until about 9 months ago. we have been throuhg many meds, and now i have changed my dr to see if another dr can get a better hold on it. because one day i fear that I will go on with my thoughts of suicide and my 9 year old son, will have to live with it. he is the main reason i am still here.


Family dealing with Bipolar (mikeK) - - Apr 29th 2010

I was diagnosed with severe, rapid-cycle bipolar disorder nearly ten years ago.  At the time of my diagnosis, I was 35 y.o which is well beyond the normal "on-set" time frame for such a diagnosis.

Since being dignosed, I tried six different psychiatrist (the last of which was the right fit for me.  In addition, I tried about the same number of therapist and finally felt comfortable with the one I met 3 years ago.

For those of you who are or who have a family member / loved one, there are five extremely important parts to creating a treatment plan.

1)  It is imperative to find a psychiatrist who you can trust and with whom you feel completely comfortable.  Your psychiatrist will prescribe and must carefully monitor the medications you are prescribed.  DO NOT LET YOUR PSYCHIATRIST CHANGE YOUR MEDICATIONS ON A MONTHLY OR WEEKLY BASIS.  Most medications take 4 to 8 weeks to become effective.

2)  Research and monitor the effectiveness of your prescribed medications.

3)  Take your medications as prescribed.  Do not alter your medications:  Just because you start to feel well doesn't mean you should stop taking your medications.  The reason you are feeling better is probably the result of the medications.

4)  Find a therapist who has experience working with bipolar patients.  We're often more difficult to treat than others.  If you don't feel a connection with your therapist, don't be afraid to try a different one.

5)  The support of family and friends is perhaps the most important element in the treatment of a loved one who is bipolar.  Always tell them that they are loved and just how important they are.  It is imperative that they understand how much they are needed and how difficult their passing would have on family and friends.

I'm not an expert on bipolar disorder but I am an individual living with and fighting the constant battles we encounter.

One last comment:  NEVER, EVER GIVE UP                                                             

Suicidal Thoughts - Pat - Oct 29th 2009

I have had 3 hospitalizations in less than 1 year.  My first attempt was very impulsivie and I swallowed a whole bottle of xanax.

After doing it I called 911 and they came immediately. They have me a charcoal drink to swallow.

I can still see my sons face looking in the ambulance telling me it would be alright.

I did not remeber anything after getting to the hospital and woke up the next morning in a bed on the psychatiric ward.

My subsequent visits I admitted myself.  I realized I had to put myself in a safe environment and I could not put  my family through that again.

I am still trying to get my bipolar under control.

My depression has been dragging the life out of me and they do not know if it is depression, adrenal fatigue, anemia, or my perimenapouse.  Or multiple issues all contriubting to me not feeling well.

I would be interested to know if anyone had mutliple issues and symptoms and what has worked for them.





wife bipolar and always thinking of dieing - mikek - Sep 8th 2009

my wife and i have been married for 15 years and have one son who will soon be 11.  my wife has been in therapy with psychologist and psychiatrist since i've known her.  generally she is loving and hard working with a tremendously challenging and high-level position in the media field, but she suffers deeply and desperately from the idea that "we" would be better off without her and that her death would essentially "free" us from her constant sadness, horriffic and mean mood swings, her sense of inadequacy, and worthlessness.  she takes many (6) meds but nothing really seems to help...constant sadness and thoughts of suicide plague her every waking moment and it is so difficult to manage the household and her illness, keeping our son "ignorant" as possible to the going's on with his mom and our family.  i am scared and tired and worried and all that goes into the intensity of a spouse contemplating suicide daily.  her therapists know all that is happening with her, i am fearful she is going to give up before we can find the right med cocktail or deeper (commitment?)placement.  i no longer know what to do. so scared.

bipolar maried to bipolar - - Aug 29th 2009

Both my wife and i suffer from this mental illness.  I've been hospitalized for mania against my will at the age of 37 it felt like i was ubducted and was a horible expierance.  Having sucidal thoughts seems to me to be a part of the expierace of beiing bipolar i'm quite glade that i haven't been drug off to a hospital everytime i started having suicidal thoughts.  I don't have any answers out side of continue to look for medications that help.  Don't give up on youself or significant other if your having suicidal thoughts make sure they are seeing someone who works with other bipolar patients, as this illness requires a strong understanding and must make it clear to family and patient that it may take some time to stablize.  especially from deprision and suicidal thoughts.

help for my son - imatha - Feb 3rd 2009

i my self have biplor and have lived with it all of my life and because i had no one to help me it was avery hard road for son also has it and he is really haveing a hard time,more than any thing in the world i wish i could make it go away .his mood swings are getting worst.i almost lost my toasuicide attempt and i'm afraid he's going to try it .him and his dad are allways having fights  but my husband has gone though this with me and should what to do .but thereare times when it seems like he's trying to trigger him he want let up the nagging and haust words.idon'tknow what to i'm doin okay myself but sometimes with the thing that go's on in my housewith me and my son both having illness it so hard.

Solution to problem of relative and suicidal behavior - Victoria - Nov 22nd 2008

If you believe your relative is suicidal or they have exibited acts such as over dosing on pills, call 9-1-1 immediately. They will be held at the hospital for 72 hours. It doesn't matter if they want to be there or not. They will be held for a psych eval.

need advice - melody - Aug 15th 2007
Hi dont know what to do for the best to help my son who is 27 living at home, suffered with bad depression on and off for many years.he is feeling very bad at moment took 28 antidepessants Amitriptyline. yesterday.knocked him out deep sleep for most of day and night'dont know what its doing to his insides. could not call doctor as he would not go to hospital so checked him most of night. im so worried about him. i have read about bipola very possible he has this condition. help,

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