Suicide in bipolar disorder in a national English sample, 1996-2009: Frequency, trends and characteristics

C. Clements, R. Morriss, S. Jones, S. Peters, C. Roberts, N. Kapur

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    Background Bipolar disorder (BD) has been reported to be associated with high risk of suicide. We aimed to investigate the frequency and characteristics of suicide in people with BD in a national sample. Method Suicide in BD in England from 1996 to 2009 was explored using descriptive statistics on data collected by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness (NCI). Suicide cases with a primary diagnosis of BD were compared to suicide cases with any other primary diagnosis. Results During the study period 1489 individuals with BD died by suicide, an average of 116 cases/year. Compared to other primary diagnosis suicides, those with BD were more likely to be female, more than 5 years post-diagnosis, current/recent in-patients, to have more than five in-patient admissions, and to have depressive symptoms. In BD suicides the most common co-morbid diagnoses were personality disorder and alcohol dependence. Approximately 40% were not prescribed mood stabilizers at the time of death. More than 60% of BD suicides were in contact with services the week prior to suicide but were assessed as low risk. Conclusions Given the high rate of suicide in BD and the low estimates of risk, it is important that health professionals can accurately identify patients most likely to experience poor outcomes. Factors such as alcohol dependence/misuse, personality disorder, depressive illness and current/recent in-patient admission could characterize a high-risk group. Future studies need to operationalize clinically useful indicators of suicide risk in BD. © Cambridge University Press 2013.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2593-2602
    Number of pages9
    JournalPsychological Medicine
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


    • Bipolar disorder
    • mood disorders
    • suicide


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