How can medications for mental illness affect a person's suicide risk?

The following are how mental illness medications can affect the risk of suicide:
  • Stopping or failing to take medications: People suffering from depression are at high risk for suicide particularly if they are not taking appropriately prescribed medications.
  • As a means: Hoarding one's medications until the person thinks there are enough to commit suicide.
  • As a protective factor: Lithium is used as a protective factor in bipolar disorder (it controls mood swings). Lithium is a common medication for this condition that is effective. Blood testing helps monitor any ill effects of this medication.
  • As a trigger: Poorly controlled symptoms (physician's assessment needed); poorly controlled changes in medications (stopping suddenly; changing medication without correct titration). If a medication is stopped suddenly it can induce psychotic symptoms that may be a risk for self harm.
  • As a contributing factor: Incorrectly prescribed medications (e.g., in a small percentage of people taking some antidepressant medications, symptoms of agitation and suicide ideation must be watched for).

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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.