Warning Signs of Suicide in Bipolar Patients

Basics of Suicide and Prevention in Bipolar Disorder

Suicidal Red Flags
Thirty percent of people with bipolar disease attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Know the red flags to keep yourself or a loved one from being one of these statistics. Peter Glass Collection/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

What are the warning signs for suicide, the red flags that tell you to worry? If you or anyone you know is living with bipolar disorder or depression, or even if not, please keep reading.

Bipolar Disorder and Suicide Risk

It can be scary to watch someone display any of the warning signs of suicide, but recognizing these red flags before there may be a problem, especially in cases of adults or teens with bipolar disorder is best.

It is estimated that nearly thirty percent of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at least once in their lives. The suicide rate for people with bipolar disorder is twenty times that of the general population.

These numbers are even more frightening when we consider the "average" suicide risk in the general population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that suicide was the eighth-ranked cause of death in the United States. It was the third leading cause of death for those ages 10-24 and the second leading cause for ages 25-34. Multiply these numbers by the increase seen with bipolar disorder and it's even more clear why understanding the indicators below is so important.

The subject of suicide is not something we can ignore. We should all be aware of the risk factors for suicide, whether or not a person has bipolar disorder. Every single one of us needs to know the warnings signs, the red flags of despair, so we may be prepared to help a friend or loved one in crisis, and be prepared to hear their cry for help.

In younger people, we need to be familiar with the warning signs of suicide in teens, as some of these may be dismissed as ordinary teen angst.

We also need to know where and how to seek help if we experience suicidal thoughts ourselves. Even the most emotionally healthy individuals on the planet sometimes experience the despair that can lead to suicide.

Suicide Red Flags: Situational, Emotional, Behavioral, and Verbal

We have organized these red flags for suicide into broad categories of symptoms for easier reference.

Situational Indicators

  • Loss of a Relationship Via Rejection or Separation
  • Death of a Loved One
  • Diagnosis of a Terminal Illness
  • Loss of Financial Security
  • A Change in Physical Appearance
  • Loss of Employment/A New Job
  • Loss of Self-Esteem
  • Abuse (Emotional, Physical, or Sexual)

Emotional Indicators

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness

A Sudden Lift Of Depression

It is a well-known fact that as a person begins to climb from depression, the possibility of a suicide attempt increases. There are two thoughts as to why this happens. The first is that when a person makes up their mind to take their own life, they become more at peace with the situation. They feel more in control and thus the depression begins to lighten. The second idea is that as lethargy lifts, a person finds the energy to carry out suicidal plans made while incapacitated. Regardless of the reason, however, this is a very critical time.

Behavioral Indicators

  • Acquiring a Weapon
  • Hoarding Medication
  • Putting Affairs in Order
  • Making or Changing a Will
  • Increased Interest in Suicide
  • Giving Away Personal Belongings
  • Mending Grievances
  • Checking on Insurance Policies
  • Withdrawing from People

Verbal Indicators

  • Straightforward Comments:
    • "I wish I were dead"
    • "I wish I had the nerve to kill myself."
    • "I wish I could die in my sleep."
    • "If it weren't for my kids, my husband...I would commit suicide."
  • Hints:
    • "I hate life."
    • "Why do I bother?"
    • "I can't take it anymore."
    • "Nothing matters anymore."

You Never Can Tell so Be Vigilant

The old adage better safe than sorry was never more correct than when it comes to monitoring friends and family members for signs of suicidal thoughts.

Unfortunately, these signs are not proof positive that someone is considering suicide.

Furthermore, any number of these signs could be evident, but the person may not have given much thought to taking their own life. The reverse is also true. A person may give no warning at all of an impending suicide attempt. So how do you know for sure?

Ask About Suicidal Thoughts!

Ask.

Yes, ask!

Many people faced with seeing a red flag find themselves afraid to ask the important question. A common and unfortunate suicide myth is that asking about suicidal thoughts will increase the risk of suicide. This is simply not true.

Be open to discussing this difficult subject with your loved one and be vigilant and take these signs seriously. It could save a life. Here are some tips on talking to a teen threatening suicide which are just as helpful for talking to an adult as well.

Bipolar Disorder, Depression, and Suicide

We've shared the frightening statistics about bipolar disorder and suicide. It's also frightening to know that roughly half of people who attempt suicide are clinically depressed. In this day and age, there are so many new treatments and so much hope for people coping with mental illness, but only if they can survive and receive treatment. If you've been coping with bipolar disorder or depression, get help. It's also a good idea to take the time to ​create a suicide safety plan.

Sources:

Baldessarini, R., Pompili, M., and L. Tondo. Suicide in Bipolar Disorder: Risks and Management. CNS Spectrums. 2006. 11(6):465-71.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide Prevention. Updated 10/28/16. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/

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