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What can help prevent suicide in people with bipolar disorder?

In addition to securing firearms, treating or preventing substance abuse, helping the person to build a support group, and being especially vigilant with those who have lost a close relative to suicide, there are additional interventions available to minimize the likelihood that a person with bipolar disorder will commit suicide.

It is so important that those with bipolar disorder seek treatment with psychiatrists who are skilled at treating this illness. Sadly, it is not safe to assume that all psychiatrists treat this illness well. In order to find a physician where you reside, it may be helpful to go to the consumer support groups or call them and ask "who is the best?" In this illness, where the mood can pivot on a dime, the psychiatrist needs to be responsive when you need to speak with him or her.

There are also specific psychotherapy interventions that can be performed by a therapist or psychiatrist. The therapy of bipolar illness should typically include the following elements: patients, and if possible family members, should learn how to recognize depression, mania or hypomania, and mixed states. It is best if a mood chart is used to spot seasonal and other patterns. Also, charting the mood helps a person recognize that it is the illness making them feel badly, not just the events in their daily life. Once a person knows how to identify specific mood states, they can then receive cognitive behavioral therapy to learn skills to deal with the feelings and distorted thoughts in each mood state. The therapist can also work with the patient and their family to make the home safer. In addition, the family can implement strategies to lessen social isolation and help their bipolar loved one to find one's gift, and applying it so as to gain a sense of usefulness and worth. The therapist can also monitor and encourage medication compliance since noncompliance with medications is a common dilemma with people with bipolar disorder, which in turn can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Another intervention is to have trusted friends or relatives know about the illness and become educated about it, so that they can observe and help the affected person when they experience altered mood states. Spouses should be invited to appointments with a psychiatrist or therapist.

Additionally, having a written plan of what to do if you or one's loved one is contemplating suicide can be helpful.

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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.