Warning Signs to Be Aware of in Suicidal Bipolar Patients

Man looking out window
Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Information presented in this article may be triggering to some people. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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 30% 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.

Suicide 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.

Red Flags for Suicide

There are several common red flags for suicide.

Situational Indicators

  • Abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual)
  • A change in physical appearance
  • Death of a loved one
  • Diagnosis of a terminal illness
  • Loss of employment or a new job
  • Loss of financial security
  • Loss of a relationship via rejection or separation
  • Loss of self-esteem

Emotional Indicators

  • Depression
  • Helplessness
  • Hopelessness

Common Behavioral Indicators

  • Acquiring a weapon
  • Checking on insurance policies
  • Giving away personal belongings
  • Hoarding medication
  • Increased interest in suicide
  • Making or changing a will
  • Mending grievances
  • Putting affairs in order
  • Withdrawing from people

Common Verbal Indicators

Straightforward comments may include:

  • "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."

More subtle hints may include:

  • "I can't take it anymore."
  • "I hate life."
  • "Nothing matters anymore."
  • "Why do I bother?"

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 about 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. Read up on tips on talking to a teen threatening suicide, which can be just as helpful when talking to an adult as well.

Bipolar Disorder, Depression, and Suicide

There are many shocking statistics about bipolar disorder and suicide. It's also frightening to know that roughly half of the 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.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Baldessarini RJ, Pompili M, Tondo L. Suicide in bipolar disorder: Risks and management. CNS Spectr. 2006;11(6):465-471. doi:10.1017/s1092852900014681

  2. Heron M. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths: Leading Causes for 2017. National Vital Statistics Reports. 2019;68(6).

  3. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Suicidal Behavior.

  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Does depression increase the risk for suicide?

By Kimberly Read
Kimberly Read is a writer with experience covering mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder.