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Identifying and Managing Suicide Risk in Bipolar Patients

J Clin Psychiatry 2001;62(suppl 25):31-34

Bipolar patients have been shown to be at high risk for suicidal behavior. Therefore, identifying potentially suicidal patients is necessary in the treatment of bipolar patients. A stress-diathesis model for suicidal behavior has been proposed to assist clinicians in determining which patients are at risk. In the model, suicidal behavior is the result of the interaction between an individual’s threshold for suicidal acts and the stressors that can lead to suicidal behavior. Suicide risk factors can then be categorized as either diathesis-related or stress-related. In a study applying the model of suicidal behavior to bipolar disorder, bipolar patients who attempted suicide had higher levels of suicidal ideation, lifetime aggression, and substance abuse than the comparison group of nonattempters. Attempters had twice the number of major depressive episodes. Once high-risk patients are identified, their suicide risk can be managed through treatments such as prophylactic lithium treatment and other pharmacologic approaches.