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Suicide risk for people with bipolar 17 times higher than general population

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On World Bipolar Day, SANE Australia has highlighted the unacceptably high suicide risk for people living with this condition.

SANE Australia CEO, Jack Heath, said the risk of suicide among people living with bipolar far exceeds the general population.

“At a time when suicide levels in general are heading in the wrong direction, it says a lot that people living with bipolar have a suicide risk 17 times that of the general population,” Mr Heath said.

“While not all suicides are linked to mental illness and the majority of people with mental illness do not attempt suicide, when we look at a condition like bipolar, the connection is undeniably strong: around 1 in 4 people living with bipolar attempt suicide and bipolar accounts for 12% of all suicides each year.

“To this end, SANE Australia is working closely with people who have attempted suicide, including those living with bipolar, to better understand how we can better help them.

“In our Lessons For Life project, we worked with 31 Australians who had attempted suicide – a third of whom had been diagnosed with bipolar.

“One young woman told us that since being diagnosed with bipolar ‘everything is just making sense and all the boxes are being connected...[before this] I felt like I had no support and nobody understood what was going on and I just felt like a failure. And I had to get out and ending my life was a way to do it’.

“While the suicide risk for people living with bipolar is deeply concerning, there are many more Australians living with other forms of severe mental illness who are equally at risk.

“That’s why SANE Australia has been strongly advocating for a specific national goal for reducing suicide along with a focus on those most at risk.

“One life lost to suicide is one life too many, and SANE supports the National Suicide Prevention Coalition’s call for a 50% reduction in suicide over a ten-year period.

“While recently announced reforms in suicide prevention at both a local and national level are welcome, SANE Australia believes we need a specific target as a focal point for our efforts.

“An important part of the national effort is reducing the stigma associated with suicide and mental illnesses like bipolar, so that more people are encouraged to seek help early on.

“SANE Australia is committed to playing its part in helping to reduce suicide in partnership with our mental health colleagues and all Australians living with a mental illness.”

- ENDS -

For more information on Bipolar disorder

Last updated: 30 March, 2016
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