307: Suicide and ADHD with Roberto Olivardia

307: Suicide and ADHD with Roberto Olivardia

Were you aware that suicidal tendencies are more common in people with untreated ADHD? Listen to Eric’s guest, Roberto Olivardia, as he explains his findings and gives his insight into the research that supports these statistics. Roberto is a clinical psychologist and lecturer at the Department of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School. He also has a private practice in Lexington, Massachusetts, where he specializes in the treatment of ADHD and many other disorders. 

Roberto shares how he got involved with the study of ADHD and suicidality, and the research showing that individuals with ADHD have a higher risk of self-harm and suicide.  Roberto believes that people with ADHD sometimes feel like they don’t fit in, which is why finding their tribe is so important. 

Feeling like you don’t belong, and are a burden to the people you love, can be a catalyst to suicide. If this resonates with you, please don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 for help.

Do you have any thoughts of hurting or harming yourself? If you are worried about someone, don’t be scared to ask them this question. Roberto informs us that asking the question can erase the stigma and let them know that others are having these kinds of thoughts, and it’s ok to talk about it. Listening without overreacting is the first thing you should do and never simplify what they are feeling. But if you believe that they are in imminent danger, it’s time to get help by whatever means necessary.

Listen to this in-depth conversation on the statistics of suicide and ADHD. Eric and Roberto give a roadmap on what to do and say if you know someone who might be following a path of darkness without any hope of finding the light. Suicide is a subject that should be talked about, so spread the word you never know who you might be able to help.

You’ll Learn:

  • [02:57] Roberto, welcome back to the show!
  • [03:07] Roberto please fill us in on how you got involved with ADHD and suicidality.
  • [04:12] He gives us statistics on the number of people who die by suicide every year.
  • [05:52] Roberto shares how ADHD can impact the treatment when dealing with both issues.
  • [07:04] There is research that shows that individuals with ADHD have a higher risk of self-harm and suicide.
  • [07:24] Does that include people with ADHD but have never had depression?
  • [09:31] Roberto shares a study following kids with ADHD ages 4 to 6 for fourteen years showing how many of them had a plan for suicide during that time.
  • [10:32] Roberto describes the difference between self-harm versus suicide.
  • [13:02] He speaks about author Dr.Thomas Joiner a leading suicide specialist and his book ‘Why People Die by Suicide.’
  • [15:57] Because people with ADHD are prone to impulsiveness, could there be a non-attempt attempt at suicide?
  • [18:34] Roberto tells us that many people who attempt suicide feel like they are burdens to their families and leaving will make it easier on them.
  • [21:06] If you feel like you are a burden or that you don’t want to be here, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 to talk to someone about what you are feeling.
  • [27:01] Roberto shares a story where a client had rehearsed his suicide so often in his mind that he used it to self-soothing.
  • [29:40] Coping mechanisms can take many different forms, but you shouldn’t be ashamed to tell someone about them.
  • [31:00] Roberto speaks about how he struggled in high school to find out where he fit in the world.
  • [34:41] How should someone respond if a loved one comes to them with thoughts of suicide? He says the first thing is to listen without overreacting.
  • [36:06] Praise them for being open and trusting you with these thoughts.
  • [37:31] Give them the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number 800-273-8255 and don’t simplify it.
  • [39:57] If there is an imminent risk that they will follow through, it’s time for them to get help as quickly as possible.
  • [41:39] Roberto shares that 50% of suicides are by firearms, 66% of gun deaths are suicides. 
  • [43:28] What are some lessons you have learned from people who have attempted suicide?
  • [45:00] If you have ADHD and major executive dysfunction it can be very difficult but there are ways and strategies to get through the challenges.
  • [47:56] Roberto chats about how important finding your tribe or community is because you are not alone.
  • [50:41] Roberto shares that non-suicide contracts do not work and are not effective.
  • [52:32] He speaks about occasions when churches wouldn’t do funerals of people who died from suicide because of the stigma that lingers even today.
  • [54:22] Roberto wants listeners to know that there is help out there for anyone that has feelings of suicide.
  • [55:01] Thank you, Roberto, for being on the show, please come back again.
  • [55:47] If you’re a regular listener, consider becoming a patron and on our Patreon at

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