A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death

Imagine: you work or go to school full-time, maybe you do both. You may come home and study, do laundry, clean, cook dinner and, on top of it all, take care of your family too. Now imagine your full plate of work and daily errands while also waking up each day and having near constant thoughts of suicide running through your head. Could you handle it? Would it be a heavy weight on your shoulders to have those thoughts with all that you already have to get done in your busy week? For someone struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), this is their life almost every day.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness discusses the many symptoms that accompany Borderline Personality Disorder. Some of the most dangerous symptoms of BPD include “impulsive behaviors that can have dangerous outcomes, such as excessive spending, unsafe sex, substance abuse or reckless driving, self-harming behavior including suicidal threats or attempts” and unstable moods. These three symptoms can be major factors when it comes to a sufferer of BPD contemplating, attempting or even completing death by suicide.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is a top leading cause of death among multiple age groups. More so, in 2015, it claimed over 44,000 lives in the United States. The prevalence of suicide attempts a year later, in 2016, was a total of only .5% among adults in America. With those facts in mind, Meghadeepa, a contributor on The Mighty,  explains that a staggering 70% of people suffering from BPD will face a suicide attempt. She also adds that people suffering from BPD will be about 50% more likely to die by suicide than the general population. This information has been supported by countless amounts of studies to show that the suicides faced by people with BPD outweigh the amount faced by the general population. This notion that BPD sufferers conquer a major portion of suicides in the United States is one that must be investigated and mended.

Unfortunately, professionals are aware of the symptoms that accompany a disorder like BPD and therefore may mislabel contemplations or attempts of suicide as being “manipulative” or  are “just threats.” Mislabels, such as these, is one of the biggest stigmas associated with BPD, where sufferers are believed to be manipulative, lie, or exaggerate for the sake of getting attention. These are dangerous assumptions for professionals to make given that the prevalence and rates of suicidal behaviors among BPD sufferers are so high. Therefore, to know that these professionals, at times, can’t take sufferers serious in their claims or aren’t prepared to counteract their claims, can have deadly consequences on those struggling.

However, while professionals need to be sure to maintain their awareness of sufferers’ emotions and actions in regard to suicidal behaviors, they can’t be entirely blamed for these high percentages. Additional support must be made available to those suffering from BPD and those with suicidal ideations/behaviors. Michelle Berk and colleagues conducted a study to evaluate risk factors that may be present for suicidal BPD sufferers. In the study, they talk about reducing the access sufferers have to lethal means, especially when they have a history of attempting suicide or self-harming from that mean. This is an effective intervention for suicide and self-harm behaviors. In addition to this, monitoring those struggling is necessary at all times, and creating safety plans to help them keep themselves safe even in the event that they did make an attempt to die by suicide. Lastly, BPD and suicide is a legitimate matter of life and death, which is why we need to learn the warning signs and how to do a simple risk assessment to detect if someone is at imminent risk. With these simple changes, we can help to make an impact on the amount of people dying by suicide with BPD and in the general population.


Meghadeepa (2016, December 1). The Implications of Suicide Statistics for Someone With BPD. The Mighty.Retrieved from https://themighty.com/2016/12/suicide-rate-borderline-personality-disorder-bpd/

National Institute of Mental Health (2018, April). Suicide. National Institute of Mental Health.Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml

Pompili, M., Girardi, P., Ruberto, A., Tatarelli, R., et al. (2005, February 25). Suicide in Borderline Personality Disorder: A meta-analysis. [Figure 1 graph of number of suicide recorded within a number of studies]. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Distribution-of-suicides-among-patients-with-BPD-compared-with-the-general-population-of_fig1_7026467

National Alliance on Mental Illness (2017, December). Borderline Personality Disorder. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-conditions/borderline-personality-disorder

Berk, M. S., Grosjean, B., & Warnick, H. (2009, May). Beyond Threats: Risk factors for Suicide in Borderline Personality Disorder. Current Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://www.mdedge.com/psychiatry/article/63558/beyond-threats-risk-factors-suicide-borderline-personality-disorder

Katelyn Gemelli

My high school psychology teacher and a course in abnormal psychology has helped me to discover a love for psychology and has made me strive to try to make a difference in the lives of those impacted by mental health. Furthermore, from volunteering as a Crisis Counselor for a crisis text-line, I have seen firsthand how challenging mental illnesses can be to live. My aim is that, over time and with the aid of The Humanology Project, people can get the help they need for their mental health/illnesses without fear or concern of judgement. A little about me includes my favorite place in the world being the Poconos Mountains, and that I have an unhealthy obsession with reading books, and Game of Thrones.

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