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Real-Life Advice on Managing Suicidal Thoughts in Bipolar Disorder

While not everyone with bipolar disorder experiences suicidal thoughts, it is a frequent symptom for many. We asked bpHope readers to share how they manage their suicidal symptoms.

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If you or a loved one is considering suicide, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You are not alone. Help is available.

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Not everyone with Bipolar has thoughts of suicide, but it’s a common symptom for many, showing up with varying degrees of severity. And untreated bipolar disorder can dramatically increase the risk of acting on these suicidal thoughts. Understanding and being aware of our thoughts and feelings can help us better navigate these challenging yet treatable aspects of bipolar. We asked our bpHope readers to share what has worked for them.

What Advice Do You Have for Others to Help Recognize, Manage, and Prevent Suicidal Thoughts?

Listen to the Thought, Look for Stress Signals

Two strategies work for me. The first is treating the thought with acceptance and humor — ‘There it is again! Just this little blip in my brain.’ The second strategy comes into play when these blips occur frequently. I ask myself, ‘Am I taking on too much? Do I need to adjust my expectations to alleviate stress?’

Additionally, there’s a third strategy. If the thoughts become more troublesome, I tell my therapist. I can trust her not to overreact. She helps me sort through the issues that have been off track and then reminds me to do something fun. What an innovative concept!
W.G., Oregon

Lean on the Right Friends to Confide Freely

After living with bipolar 1 for 32 years, I’ve come to realize that my symptoms started back in grade school. These symptoms reflect my internal battles, not the outside world. I’ve contemplated suicide many times, but when it comes to actually doing it, another thought occurs: What if I were to survive the attempt? I would have to face the unbearable shame that I already have enough of. That very fear of shame is what keeps me from going through with it. 

Today, I have people in my life I can confide in about my suicidal feelings, which helps me. It’s crucial for me to be honest with someone — that act of openness reinforces my desire to keep living.
Surround yourself with the right people. Stay strong and take care.
L.P., Indiana

Listen, Learn, and be Vulnerable

I’ve survived four attempts, each one bringing me progressively closer to tragic success. I’ve learned the importance of opening up to my support team. It requires being vulnerable, which goes against all of my upbringing. I’m learning to communicate to my team exactly how I feel. Then, I listen carefully. Their insights and compassion are teaching me what to watch out for. They guide me on what to do when my warning signs start to appear. Because of this, I have seen my current slide toward another attempt. I know what’s coming and am ringing my “need help bell‚” before I do anything “stupid.”
Maybe this old dog can learn new tricks! Listen, learn, and be vigilantly vulnerable.
S.A., Wisconsin

Give it a Day: Time Can Ease Intense Emotions

The best thing I can do is acknowledge that I sometimes wish this battle — the one between life and my desire to die — was over. I want to be done with the fight, to stop trying so hard to convince myself that I don’t want to die. Yet, when I think of my granddaughter, I can’t bear the thought of hurting her that way; it would change her world. Considering the heartbreak my suicide would cause to others doesn’t alleviate my pain or desire. But it does bring me to the mantra that has saved me every time: WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW. From past experience, I know that the intensity of the feeling will be less by the next morning. It’s painful, forcing myself to continue living. However, after decades of grappling with depression and suicidal thoughts, I’ve realized that I can live with bipolar instead of succumbing to it.
L.S., Massachusetts

You’re Never Alone With Community Centers Nearby

For the past eight years, whenever I sense I’m in crisis, either on my own or with the assistance of someone I’ve confided in, I visit a crisis center linked to my community mental health center. This is a voluntary short-term intervention, where they help me create a WRAP plan. In addition, they offer several groups daily to assist in developing new coping strategies and managing intense emotions. I also meet with a therapist daily. Before I leave, they make sure I have subsequent mental health appointments lined up. The center even follows up with phone calls to check on my well-being. Fortunately, this has kept me from being hospitalized, which would have been more stressful given the loss of control over my care.
T.P., Iowa

List all the Reasons to Live and What Matters Most

The most valuable tool in my “bipolar toolkit” is my bipolar notebook. It’s a three-ring binder that sits among other books about bipolar disorder on my bookshelf. Inside, I keep lists of things I enjoy doing, reasons why I want to live, and letters and notes I’ve written to myself over the years. All these writings encourage me when I’m depressed and/or suicidal and remind me why I want to live. I have one paper titled “Why I Love Fall” to remind me of all the glorious things that happen in autumn that I dearly love. I’ve also saved insightful articles, like those from bpHope, that I’ve found especially helpful. Additionally, I keep a list of contacts of supportive people who will be helpful to me when I choose to reach out to them. This has helped me tremendously over the years.
S.S., West Virginia

Creative Crafts Offer Distraction and a Needed Lifeline

I have struggled with bipolar disorder for more than 30 years. As the years have passed, I’ve found ways to deal with overwhelming depression and anxiety. One of those ways is to journal. I have notebooks full of my emotions and thoughts during difficult times. I also write when things are going well. Another avenue that helps me get through rough times is crafting. If I can keep myself busy and feel some sense of accomplishment, I feel better about life in general. These crafts could take hours. I’ll play my favorite music, get busy on some arty projects, and start feeling better. I hope you find something that works for you.
Name withheld, New Mexico

Every Hour Can Make a Difference

I regularly struggle with suicidal thoughts. It’s never easy, but what gets me through is the passage of time. I remind myself that no feeling is permanent; everything is temporary. Though the dark thoughts and intense emotions will pass, they also tend to return. That’s the ongoing battle. But just as feelings come and go, the suicidal urges will also pass with time. I just have to remember that. Sleep also helps pass the time.
B.M., Wisconsin

Get Serious About Bipolar Treatment

I’ve made several attempts; while the decision was premeditated, the action was impulsive each time. Occasionally, I ended up in the hospital, but other times, I kept it hidden. Oddly, those concealed attempts became a turning point in resisting further urges. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t particularly good at the act, and while contemplating the ‘ideal’ method, I realized there was no assurance that I wouldn’t end up in a vegetative state, which to me seemed even worse than death. So, I promised myself not to try again unless I found a flawless method (strange reasoning, but it kept me alive). Since it didn’t seem likely to find such a method, I dug in and got serious about treatment. The unwavering support of a close friend, a good therapist and doctor, some go-to songs for various emotions, safety plan(s), and that self-promise have allowed me to thrive in the decades since.
J.R., Texas

Let Faith be Your Guide in the Darkest Moments

I was once a lost soul, hardly finding any reason to be on this planet. But over the past 10 years, as I’ve strengthened my faith and continued with psychological treatment, I’ve gotten better. I’ve come to accept that I live with a condition that changes. However, with daily dedication to my faith and treatment, my life has improved. My faith has taught me to love both myself and others. I’ve realized the power of thoughts, and understanding their potential to manifest into reality.

Each day, I try to do my best, sometimes living moment by moment. Recently, I had a real good cry as I wondered, Do I have to do this all the time? For the rest of my life? The answer I found was a clear yes. The ride of bipolar feels like a never-ending roller coaster. Always bear in mind thoughts become things.
Name withheld, Michigan

Find Solace in the Company of Trusted Friends

Find a trustworthy friend or someone who will genuinely listen to you. Ideally, this person is completely separate from those who might speak about you behind your back. I call this “sanitary talk.” I once assisted someone who was nearly a shut-in. Many seniors need a friend like you. In the county where I live, the suicide rate among senior citizens is the highest in my state. 

In my dark times, I had one such friend. I could call him anytime, day or night. He allowed me to share ideas and true feelings without judging me. This non-judgmental support is so very important. We need to have the ability to communicate freely. Keep going forward. No one is truly trapped. Time has a way of healing. Believe in that.
Name withheld, Georgia

Accepting a Bipolar Diagnosis — a Gateway to Treatment and Stability

I live with bipolar, a condition that went untreated for many years. In 2010, after several significant events, I spiraled into an extended manic phase. This period led me to make risky choices that nearly destroyed my marriage. By 2014, I felt the weight of my decisions pulling me down, making me feel like an unbearable burden. I believed suicide was the only way to escape my pain. When I woke up in the ICU, however, I was angry. During rehab, I was finally diagnosed with bipolar. I was initially resistant to treatment, but with time, I began to experience a semblance of balance.

Now, almost a decade later, after numerous medications and much trial and error, I’ve found a measure of stability. Yet, my family has not forgotten that day. They still watch for signs of a relapse. My doctor said if I didn’t have small ups and downs like everyone else, just straight lines, I wouldn’t be here today.
C.B., Georgia

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Real-Life Advice on Managing Suicidal Thoughts in Bipolar Disorder


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