Suicidal Ideation and Attempts in Bipolar I and II Disorders

Objective: Few studies have investigated the prevalence of and risk factors for suicidal ideation and attempts among representative samples of psychiatric patients with bipolar I and II disorders.

Method: In the Jorvi Bipolar Study (JoBS), psychiatric inpatients and outpatients were screened for bipolar disorders with the Mood Disorder Questionnaire from January 1, 2002, to February 28, 2003. According to Structured Clinical Interviews for DSM-IV Axis I and II Disorders, 191 patients were diagnosed with bipolar disorders (bipolar I, N = 90; bipolar II, N = 101). Suicidal ideation was measured using the Scale for Suicidal Ideation. Prevalence of and risk factors for ideation and attempts were investigated.

Results: During the current episode, 39 (20%) of the patients had attempted suicide and 116 (61%) had suicidal ideation; all attempters also reported ideation. During their lifetime, 80% of patients (N = 152) had had suicidal behavior and 51% (N = 98) had attempted suicide. In nominal regression models, severity of depressive episode and hopelessness were independent risk factors for suicidal ideation, and hopelessness, comorbid personality disorder, and previous suicide attempt were independent risk factors for suicide attempts. There were no differences in prevalence of suicidal behavior between bipolar I and II disorder; the risk factors were overlapping but not identical.

Conclusion: Over their lifetime, the vast majority (80%) of psychiatric patients with bipolar disorders have either suicidal ideation or ideation plus suicide attempts. Depression and hopelessness, comorbidity, and preceding suicidal behavior are key indicators of risk. The prevalence of suicidal behavior in bipolar I and II disorders is similar, but the risk factors for it may differ somewhat between the two.

J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66(11):1456-1462