Suicide is one of the greatest risks for someone with bipolar disorder.  When they are in a normal or manic episode, they usually will not consider it; however, when in a depressed episode, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can become overwhelming, and suicidal thoughts given serious consideration.


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that more than 90% of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.


The National Mental Health Association (NMHA) reports that 30-75% of suicide victims have suffered some kind of depression.


According to Kay Redfield Jamison, one of the leading experts in the field of bipolar disorder, "Suicide, which is both a stereotypic yet highly individualized act, is a common endpoint for many patients with severe psychiatric illness. The mood disorders (depression and bipolar manic-depression) are by far the most common psychiatric conditions associated with suicide. At least 25% to 50% of patients with bipolar disorder also attempt suicide at least once."[1]


Although many people with bipolar disorder who attempt suicide never actually complete it, the annual average suicide rate is 10 to more than 20 times that in the general population.[2]


Between 6-20% of bipolar patients die by suicide compared with 25-56% attempting suicide.[3]

On my website devoted to bipolar disorder., I have even more startling statistics.  These are just some. 

Risk factors for suicide include the following:


·         Being in a bipolar depressive episode

·         Having threatened suicide before

·         Having attempted suicide before

·         Having family members who have attempted suicide

·         Having knives or firearms in the home


Some warning signs of suicide include:

·         Talking about death or suicide

·         Making comments about feeling helpless or hopeless

·         Saying things like, "I'd be better off dead," or "You'd be better off without me"

·         Deep feelings of guilt, shame, or remorse

·         Sudden switch from depression to calmness or abnormal happiness

·         Giving away of possessions

·         Risk-taking behaviors

·         Sudden accidents (these could be suicide attempts)

·         Putting affairs in order

If your loved one is in a bipolar depressive episode, they are at risk for suicide.  If they are showing signs of suicidal behaviors, do not leave them alone if it is at all possible. People often talk about suicide before they attempt it, so pay close attention to what they are saying.

Take all threats of suicide seriously. Try to get your loved one to seek help or at least call the suicide hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE. 


[1] Jamison, K.R., Suicide and Bipolar Disorder,  J Clin Psychiatry. 2000;61 Suppl 9:47-51

[2] Citrome, M.D., Leslie, Goldberg, M.D., Joseph F., "Bipolar disorder is a potentially fatal disease"