Here's a list of 10 ways to support someone with bipolar:
Get informed. Do some reading and gain knowledge about what it is the person is trying to cope with and how they have to learn to live with bipolar. A lot of myths and misunderstandings can quickly be dispelled this way and you're bound to gain additional insights. It's often the case that people with bipolar are well informed about their condition, but don't assume this. You may find big gaps in knowledge and the person may even carry some of the stereotypes with them. Your role is to help dispel the myths and replace them with facts and affirming statements about their potential.
Bipolar is characterized by episodes of illness. Get to know what this means and what it means for the person. Work with them to devise plans you are both comfortable with in the event of episodes occurring.
Get used to observing patterns of speech and behavior that could indicate a shift in mood. The person is entitled to off days, moments of irritation, laughter and so on just as you are. More consistent issues like disrupted sleep, increased anger, grand ideas, low moods and dietary changes might indicate the start of an episode.
Try not to be judgmental or assume what you are seeing is within the gift of the person to modify or prevent.
Allow space and don't make too many demands. Stress is like a red flag to many people with bipolar. You can't wrap them in cotton wool, and they wouldn't thank you for trying, but if you see things are getting on top of the person think about ways you can help out to relieve the pressure.
Offer lifts, make appointments, walk the dog, do some shopping.
If they need to go to hospital, visit them.
Certain behaviors are destructive or may indicate the start of an episode of illness. Don't support them. Some examples are drinking alcohol, gambling, spending or donating lots of money.
Don't be confrontational. Better to walk away than to escalate a situation you won't be able to manage.
Don't be afraid to call the doctor or the emergency services if you have real concerns about the health and well-being of the person. Always treat threats to commit suicide very seriously.
Of course there are many more things you might add to the list but some of the key features I've tried to illustrate are observation, tolerance, cooperation and collaboration.
Published On: August 18, 2009
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