How to Help and Support Someone With Bipolar Disorder

Trigger Warning: This article contains references to bipolar disorder.

The last few weeks have been difficult for Kanye West.

After making headlines around the world when he announced he was running for President of the United States of America, he then appeared at a rally wearing a bulletproof vest, making an emotionally charged speech about abortion.

Following the impassioned rally, West posted, then posted (then deleted), a series of tweets claiming that his wife, Kim Kardashian West and mother-in-law, Kris Jenner, were trying to get him hospitalised. He also made claims that the film Get Out was based on him.

Each time he would lash out, West’s behaviour would go viral, drawing both scrutiny and concern from his fans and peers — particularly when it comes to his mental health.

In 2019, he appeared in an interview with David Letterman announcing that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that he feels a “higher connection with the universe” when he’s “ramping up” and while it certainly could explain his behaviour of late, it can be at times difficult to understand.

While bipolar disorder can be distressing for those who are debilitated by it, manic episodes can often leave friends and family at a loss with how to not only support their loved ones but how to support themselves.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

According to Healthline, Bipolar Disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a mental illness that causes extreme changes in mood, energy, and activity levels.

Someone with the disorder will often find it hard to carry out daily tasks and often develops in older teenagers and young adults.

People who suffer can have episodes of extreme happiness (mania) and extreme sadness (depression) and can even experience both at the same time.

There are six types of the disorder, all with varying symptoms and severity.

These include:

— bipolar I disorder

— bipolar II disorder

— cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia)

— substance/medication-induced bipolar and related disorder

— bipolar and related disorder due to another medical condition

— unspecified bipolar and related disorder

Symptoms can include (but are not limited to): changes in mood and energy levels, sleep patterns, behaviours and some people can experience psychotic symptoms including hallucinations and delusions.

How do I help and support someone with Bipolar Disorder?

Healthline suggests a 10-step plan when it comes to supporting a loved one who has been diagnosed with bipolar.

    1. Educate yourself — The more you know, the more you can understand and help.
    2. Listen — Being a good listener is just as important as giving advice. Pay attention and let them feel how they are feeling and stay calm during conversations.
    3. Be a champion — Ensure that your loved one feels supported, even if you don’t always agree with their behaviour
    4. Be active in their treatment — Depending on how close you are to the person who has been diagnosed, being present at appointments or even getting them there can be beneficial.
    5. Make a plan — Bipolar Disorder can be unpredictable so making a plan for emergency situations before they occur, can help when they do. Also, having pre-planned positive coping mechanisms for both of you is extremely important.
    6. Support, don’t push — Someone with Bipolar Disorder, especially when irritated, won’t do anything if you push them. Support them, rather than push the subject.
    7. Be understanding — This can be very difficult, especially if you’ve been through a lot with this person. Having compassion and understanding that they are going through a tough time is important.
    8. Don’t neglect yourself — You know that old aeroplane saying, give yourself oxygen before anyone else. How can you help someone in crisis, if you haven’t got a full tank yourself?
    9. Be patient and optimistic — This too shall pass. These mood swings, this argument, this episode, it’s all temporary and it will be OK.
    10. Know when it’s too much — Sometimes it is OK to step back and let professionals look after their patients. As Healthline says, “call 000 if the person becomes abusive or threatens to harm themselves or others.”

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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