The most important way a significant other or family member can help me is by understanding me. I may act in ways that aren't 'normal.' Realize that this is due to bipolar disorder. You can best do this by reading up on this disease, learning the characteristics of this illness, the actions that it may cause me to do so that you are not surprised if one or two of them happen. Through understanding me you can empathize with some of the difficulties I experience. I don't need nor want your pity, but empathy goes a long way. It allows you to see why I may do something that would puzzle you if you had not read about my illness.
The most important thing that anyone can do, as a family member of someone with bipolar disorder is to inform themselves about it and ask questions. I don't mind at all if someone asks me about it, about my moods, my meds, anything, so long as they honestly want to know versus simply meddling in my business or searching for gossip. I think that the more someone knows, the less likely they are to do the things that offend me most. A lot of stress in my life could be eliminated if the curious would simply ask. I'm not ashamed, and I try to make myself as approachable as I can be.
From the quotes above, taken from ‘The Healthy Place’ website (http://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/menu-id-67/), we can see that everyone involved in the life of the person with bipolar disorder should learn about bipolar disorder, including the family members. There is a lot of information to wade through so one must be careful in what they read and hear. Education is promoted by people with bipolar disorder themselves, their families and professionals. Educating oneself can make you an active participant in dealing with bipolar disorder, learning to control triggers and hopefully shortening episodes. Family can become empowered by learning to recognize early symptoms in order to intervene in a timely manner. Information often talks about learning about medications but it is also important to educate oneself on the personal factors affecting your loved one – some factors, such as daily routines, will be discussed in another section of this website (Healthy Lifestyle). There is so much information out there, so educating oneself is a vital part of managing and supporting the person with bipolar disorder. We hope this website will give you a good understanding of some of the information out there and help you find additional sources of information.
An important area to educate yourself on is the services that are available to you and your family member with bipolar disorder. What services are available in your community or surrounding area? In Canada, the mental health care system is controlled by the provincial and territorial governments and services may vary from province to province. Mental health services combine a mix of health, social/recreational, and educational services. Mental health care can refer to promotion of mental health, prevention of mental health problems or the treatment of psychiatric illnesses.
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