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Understanding Suicide

Suicide is a serious risk for people with bipolar disorder, sometimes called manic depression. By learning more about suicide, you're taking an active step in knowing more about your illness.

Here are some facts about bipolar disorder and suicide:

  • Most suicide attempts occur during a depressed or mixed episode.
  • Suicide may also occur during an episode of mania, or when a person is going into or coming out of depression or mania. This can happen even if he or she seems to be feeling better.
  • Up to half of people with bipolar disorder make at least 1 suicide attempt.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 people with bipolar disorder commits suicide.
  • People with bipolar disorder who misuse alcohol or drugs have a higher risk of suicide.

Understanding suicidal thoughts

Considering suicide means you need to get help to control your bipolar disorder symptoms.

It's important to know that suicidal thoughts are symptoms of an illness — not "who you are."

Suicidal thoughts may not just go away on their own. That's why you need to get help. The right treatment can help you feel better.

If you are thinking about suicide:

  • Call 911 to get help immediately before you act on those thoughts.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider or therapist.
  • Don't stay alone. Call a friend or family member who can watch out for you and tell them not to leave you alone.
  • Call the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) if you need someone to talk to. Or call a local crisis hotline (many hotlines put their numbers right in the phone book). You may want to write those phone numbers in a place that's easy to get to in case you need them.

This is general information only. Please call your healthcare provider or therapist for more information.

Other things that may help if you have thoughts of suicide:

  • Get a treatment plan and stick with it. The right treatment can help people with bipolar disorder feel better. Going to your healthcare provider, taking your medicines, understanding your symptoms, taking good care of yourself — these are part of taking an active role in your treatment.
  • Find someone you can talk openly with about your feelings and thoughts when you are depressed. Other than your healthcare provider or therapist, you might talk to trusted family members, friends, or clergy.
  • Do not use street drugs or alcohol. Death by suicide can result from sudden impulses. It's important to avoid anything that adds to these impulses.
  • Learn to recognize your warning signs of changing moods. Warning signs may be different for different people. Over time, you may be able to learn how to accept them, instead of being angry or disgusted with yourself. Knowing signs of mood changes also can help you make sure you are in a safe place if you do start to think of suicide.
  • Connect with other people. It may seem hard to do, but social time with others may help you feel better.
  • Participate in productive, enjoyable activities. Getting involved in meaningful activities may help your mood.
  • Do something physical. Physical activities may have a positive effect on your mood. They may help you feel better. Remember to first ask your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.
  • Keep a journal of your thoughts. Some people find it helpful to keep a journal.

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