Home Mental Health & Well-Being World Suicide Prevention Day: 40% of People Awaiting a Bipolar Diagnosis Will Attempt to Take Their Own Life

World Suicide Prevention Day: 40% of People Awaiting a Bipolar Diagnosis Will Attempt to Take Their Own Life

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With World Suicide Prevention Day coming up (Sunday, 10th September), national charity Bipolar UK has revealed that 24% of people waiting up to two years for a diagnosis of bipolar will attempt to take their own life, increasing to over 39% when people are left waiting for between five and ten years for their diagnosis.

The average delay between first reporting symptoms to a clinician and diagnosis is 9.5 years.

Bipolar has the highest risk of suicide of any mental health condition. Global research estimates that 15–20% of people with bipolar will die by suicide, and 60% of people with bipolar will attempt suicide at least once during their lifetime.

In November 2022, the charity presented 18 months of research to government policymakers in the form of the “Bipolar Commission,” urging them to reduce diagnosis time and deliver a greater continuity of care that would lead to a better quality of life for those living with bipolar and reduce bipolar-related suicides.

Speaking about the urgent need for action, CEO of Bipolar UK, Simon Kitchen, said: “Diagnosis delays remain at an all-time high, leading to people feeling so lost and alone that they believe suicide is their only option.

“56% of people living with bipolar don’t yet have a diagnosis, so we think that suicide rates are higher than the one in 20 we know about. As well as campaigning to reduce diagnosis time, we are asking the government to include the condition in their National Suicide Prevention Strategy to save more lives.

“We know that, with consistency of care and medication, people can live well with the condition.”

Bipolar is a common condition characterised by significant and sometimes extreme changes in mood and energy, which go far beyond most people’s experiences of feeling a bit down or happy.

There are over one million people with bipolar in the UK – 30% more than those with dementia and twice as many as those with both autism and schizophrenia.

Kitchen added: “Health professionals are not being educated to understand how suicidality manifests in bipolar – nor are they being provided with the resources to reduce the risk.

“Huge numbers of people with bipolar are losing their lives to suicide or having their lives devastated by the trauma and consequences of an attempted suicide.

“Including bipolar in the national suicide prevention strategy will represent a significant step forward for the bipolar community.”

The charity is also calling for strong long-term relationships between individual clinicians and patients living with bipolar.

Professor Guy Goodwin, co-chair of the Bipolar Commission and emeritus professor of psychiatry at The University of Oxford, said: “Bipolar is probably the single highest identified risk for suicide. Lowering this risk requires the diagnosis of bipolar, effective advice and treatment.

“There urgently needs to be a national push to speed up bipolar diagnosis, which is too often long delayed. For those who become suicidal, there needs to be a clear and effective medical response – quicker access to psychiatrists and crisis care will help.

“People with bipolar should always receive psychoeducation so they understand their increased risk of suicide. They should also get support from mental health teams to produce self-management plans to lower the risk of relapse and safety plans to protect them if they do relapse.”

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