Building a solid support structure

Create a support structure which includes family, friends, people you trust, your psychiatrist, your psychologist, another practitioner helping you, support groups and online communities.


Encourage those you want to be a part of your support structure to understand bipolar. Tell them what role you want them to play like being there for you to talk to, watch your moods to note when you are about to relapse and make decisions for you when you have relapsed.


Understand that it can be a struggle for your loved ones. The changes in your mood can be both surprising and alarming. It can be terrifying when your life is at stake so be patient, kind and understanding. Support and guide them in their role while you have the ability to do so.

Words of wisdom from a psychiatrist

"There is help for people with bipolar disorder and one must never be scared if they feel that they may have it. There are now many medications on the market that are relatively safe.  One should always consult their GP if they feel they may have bipolar disorder for an assessment."

Who can support you

Family and friends

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Confide in family and friends whom you can trust. They need to have an idea of what you are going through so teach them about bipolar disorder, what symptoms they can look out for, what can trigger your episodes and how you can prevent it and what you can do in order to live a healthy life.

Show them how they can support you when you need help.

Psychiatrist

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Find a good psychiatrist whom you can trust. Get an assessment. If you have bipolar disorder then they will start a treatment plan. This plan will include prescribed medication and talking through your history and the current problems you face. You can expect check-ups - usually every six months - to revise your medication and health - you may need to go for blood tests.

Psychologist

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It is a good idea to talk to a psychologist whom you can trust. They can help you with keeping a clear mind, depression and other mental problems. Talk about your thoughts, feelings, mood shift and what you want to achieve to get guidance. They can help you get the most out of your life, deal with stress, anxiety, phobias and other problems you experience.

Bipolar buddy

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Make friends with someone else who has bipolar disorder. Learn through personal experiences, keep each other in check and suggest when to get professional help. Things to look out for are lifestyle, the choices being made and if any signs of an episode are developing.

Support groups

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Find a bipolar disorder and/or depression support group that works for you. You can confide in people with similar experiences that have an idea of what you are going through. It is important not to give advice, rather share your personal experiences.

Online communities

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Online communities broaden your reach for people with similar experiences to you. You can learn more about their stories, the medication they are on, the side effects they have, the problems they face and how they improve their lives.

Online communities

18percent

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Join the 18percent community. 18percent is a free online Slack community for anyone living with a mental health issue - no matter how small or large. On 18percent you can chat in real-time with 1000's of people from around the world.

DBSA

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DBSA offers in-person and online support groups for people living with a mood disorder as well as friends and family. 

The Recovery Village

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The Recovery VillageĀ® offers individualised care for substance use and mental health conditions at treatment centres across the United States.

RehabSpot.com

Our informational web guide is focused on educating people on all aspects of recovery: from selection of treatment center, to what you can expect during treatment, to entering back into a healthy and fulfilling life. Trained staff are available 24/7 to help people find an appropriate treatment center. Find out more about co-occuring disorders and substance abuse.

Ridgefield Recovery

Studies show that close to 60% of people who suffer from bipolar disorder admit to abusing some sort of substance. Some people attempt to treat symptoms of their mental illness with substances, but substance misuse can activate or prolong symptoms. Find out more.

The roles of a supporter

Learn about it

Read about bipolar disorder. Talk to your loved one, their psychiatrist, psychologist, GP and any other practitioner that your loved one is seeing to understand the disorder. Get an idea of the treatment plan, what it does and learn how you can be there for them when they need you.

Be alert

Know how to look out for an episode and how to deal with one. Be patient and understanding of yourself and your loved one. These times are not easy on both of you. It can be alarming, surprising, overwhelming and scary. Just try your best. If you can't help them anymore, find someone else who can step in for you. It's okay!

Be encouraging

Encourage your loved one to follow their treatment plan, make appointments to see their psychiatrist and psychologist, go to the appointments and be on time, go for therapy on a regular basis even if things are going well, avoid illegal substances and alcohol and stay away from things that can trigger an episode. Create a crisis plan for you to follow when episodes gets out of hand and for them to reach out when they need help.

Give suggestions

At this stage bipolar can not be cured and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. Medication is tailored for each patient. As new medication is introduced or dosages are changed, new and painful side effects can be experienced. Suggest that your loved one see their psychiatrist about these symptoms or you can even suggest a second opinion if you feel that the treatment plan needs to be revised.

Be patient

Episodes can be brutal. Your loved one can experience unpleasant effects that can make you feel rejected and you can get scared for their safety. They can become reckless and do things they may regret as they don't worry about consequences. Try your best to fight through these times together. It's okay if you can't do it alone. Get someone else involved. Be patient with yourself and your loved one.

Take suicidal threats seriously

In my experience it is NOT a cry for help and it can be depending on the context. For me, it is a deep desire to disappear. I have felt that I have lost my will to live in this ultimate low. This is difficult for a someone to manage. Immediately follow the crisis plan to get the help they need.