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How can my risk of suicide be reduced if I have bipolar disorder?

First, it's important to receive expert professional help rather than trying to go it alone.

Second, successfully managing bipolar disorder requires healthy lifestyle implementation. The more you can establish healthy stable patterns of daily living the more you'll find you can exert positive influence over your mood instability. And while healthy and consistent life patterns won't fully insure against depressive downswings, they will mitigate their impact.

Third, developing a good network of healthy interpersonal relationships is essential. People become suicidal when they feel alienated and interpersonally disconnected. In fact, rarely do I see someone feeling suicidal who doesn't also feel alone and isolated. So connection to others is a very important prophylaxis against suicidal thoughts and feelings. Besides, the better your support network, the stronger the likelihood that you'll receive help and support from those who care about you during times of struggle.

Sheri Van Dijk
Psychiatry

If you have bipolar disorder, it's an unfortunate fact that your risk for suicide is increased. However, there are things you can do to reduce this:

  • Take your medications as prescribed. If you don't like the side-effects of your medications, speak to your doctor about this rather than stopping meds on your own. Often you need to come off medications in a certain way (e.g. "weaning") and not doing so can cause unpleasant symptoms.
  • Avoid mood-altering drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse is another problem that increases the risk of suicide, and using substances can cause you to act impulsively.
  • Try to surround yourself with people who are positive influences on you, and who are supportive. This doesn't mean that you should constantly talk to these people about your suicidal thoughts or other problems, as this can lead to burning out your friendships; but being around healthy, positive people can influence your mood and behavior.
  • Speak to a professional if you're having difficulties coping. A therapist or other health care professional can often help you problem-solve, and learn other skills to make life a little easier.

Most importantly, as soon as you start to experience thoughts of suicide, seek professional help. When things get this bad, they don't very often get better on their own. Be honest with your health care team and let them know what's going on so they can help you. Things can get better with time and effort, so don't give up hope!

With effective care and treatment for bipolar disorder, the risk of suicide can be reduced. To reduce the chance of suicide, the treatment plan for those with Bipolar Disorder and comorbid substance abuse should include access to and ongoing relationships with healthcare professionals, strong connections to family and community support groups, restricted access to highly lethal means of suicide, and skills in problem solving and conflict resolution. All of these are important components in reducing the risk of suicide.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.