Some people with Bipolar Disorder do become suicidal. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), ten percent of those people with Bipolar Disorder will kill themselves. But what about the other ninety percent? Is there a way to stop those people from committing suicide?

The suicide statistics are high, and they are frightening. Ten percent of people with Bipolar Disorder will kill themselves? Considering that we have over a million people with Bipolar Disorder in this country age eighteen or older, that’s quite a number of people, and that’s just the number of diagnosed people! The number of people with Bipolar Disorder who are misdiagnosed or who have yet to be diagnosed is even higher.

Yes, suicide statistics are frightening. But there are symptoms of suicide, just as there are symptoms of Bipolar Disorder itself, and just as we can take medication to control the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, there is help for the symptoms of suicidal thoughts before the person takes action on those symptoms, and if we are aware of those, we can, possibly, prevent the suicide before it happens.

Knowing when the risk of suicide is higher can help, and the risk for suicide in a person with Bipolar Disorder is higher earlier in the course of the bipolar. Therefore, the earlier you begin to manage the symptoms of the disorder, the earlier you can prevent the risk of suicidal thoughts from ever surfacing.

Recognizing a bipolar depressive episode, and its symptoms, can go far in preparing you to help the person with Bipolar Disorder to manage the episode. The best way you can help the person is to make sure they take their medication. Staying on their medication is the most crucial thing as far as regulating not just their moods but also their thoughts, and stabilizing the disorder itself. Without medication, Bipolar Disorder is a life-threatening illness. My own sister went off her medication thinking she didn’t need it, and eight months later, she killed herself.

Assisting the bipolar person by helping them to keep their appointments with the psychiatrist and therapist will also help to manage their negative thoughts and feelings by making sure that they have someone to talk to about it. This will minimize the risk of those negative thoughts and feelings turning into suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress that need to be addressed—they are not just a harmless bid for attention, especially in a person with Bipolar Disorder. Most suicidal people give warning signs as a cry for help, in the hope that they will be rescued, but a person in a bipolar depressed episode may not be able to do this, as they may not be in control of their thoughts.

People with Bipolar Disorder usually attempt suicide to block unbearable emotional pain, which is caused by a wide variety of problems that the medication is unable to stop. Bipolar medication works on the physical symptoms of the disorder, stabilizing the mood swings; however, there may still be problems in emotional areas that the medication cannot address. The person who has suicidal thoughts may be so distressed that they cannot see that they have other options. If you can talk to them and help them to see these other options, you may be able to prevent a tragedy and help them—just by telling them you are there for them and that you understand how they feel can go a long way towards helping them see that they are not alone. Suicidal people often feel very isolated and alone.

Bipolar Disorder, especially during a bipolar depressive episode, can cause negative thoughts to become irrational and even suicidal. Helping the bipolar person to see their situation in light of reality, helping them to view their options, to understand that they are truly not alone, and especially that what they are going through is only a temporary thing, may help them to see that suicide is not the answer.

Suicide is never the result of a rational mind. If you notice that the person is expressing irrational, or even suicidal, thoughts, always take the person seriously. However, if none of the above solutions has worked, and you feel that you are truly facing a person who is suicidal, following are some suggestions:

  • Have the person call the National Suicide Hot Line at: 1-800-SUICIDE.
  • Call the person’s doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist.
  • Call 911 or the Mobile Crisis Unit for immediate help.
  • Make sure you don’t leave the person alone at any time.
  • Make sure the person does not have access at any moment to any large amounts of medication, weapons, or other dangerous items that may be used for self-harm.