Suicide and Bipolar Disorder

Many people do not realize that suicide is one of the leading causes of death, both in the United States and around the world. Estimates for the percentages of people with bipolar disorder who kill themselves range from 10 to 20 percent, with 15 percent the most commonly cited figure. Sixty percent of people with bipolar disorder who commit suicide were abusing drugs or alcohol when they took their lives.


More than 45 percent of people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide. Suicide attempts are more common early in the course of the illness and most likely when a person is depressed or experiencing a mixed episode showing signs of depression and mania.

Global Suicide Rates

The World Health Organization (WHO) has compiled some alarming figures about suicide. It estimates that around 1 million people each year, or 3,000 per day, take their own lives. This is more than die as a result of war and homicide combined. Among people under age twenty-five, it is one of the top three causes of death. The staggering size of the numbers reflects the 60 percent increase in suicide rates since 1965. By the end of the next decade, 1.5 million people per year are expected to kill themselves.

Sixty percent of suicides occur in Asia, where cultural factors make impulsive acts of desperation more common. Still, many die as a consequence of mental illness.

Suicide in the United States

In the United States, about 33,000 people commit suicide a year. It is the eleventh leading cause of death across age groups. Although experts estimate there are between one and two dozen suicide attempts for every suicide death, more people die by suicide each year than die as a result of homicide.


Call for help! The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available for everyone. Call if you need help or if someone you know needs help. It is confidential and available every day year round, 24 hours a day. Call toll-free 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

About four times as many males than females die of suicide, though females are more likely to attempt it. The method used seems to account for some of the difference. Firearms account for about 56 percent of the suicides by males and only 31 percent of suicides by women. Women resort more often to poisoning (40 percent) compared to men (13 percent). Suffocation accounts for similar percentages in the two sexes: 23 percent for males and 19 percent for females.

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