It has come to my attention that there are some people who have a poor understanding of bipolar disorder. I thought that I would take this post as an opportunity to clear things up.
Bipolar Disorder is considered a Severe Mental Illness
Bipolar Disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and severe major depressive disorder are considered to be severe mental illnesses because they have complex symptoms that require ongoing treatment and management, most often varying types and dosages of medication and therapy. They often have long periods of remission, but medication failures are common leading to emergence of symptoms. bhevolution.org/public/severe_mental_illness.page
Bipolar Disorder is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act
In 2008, the ADA was amended to cover Bipolar Disorder to protect people with bipolar disorder from discrimination in hiring, job assignments, promotions, firing, pay, layoffs, benefits and other employment-related activities. It states that if a disability causes impairment that “substantially limits” a person’s ability to handle “major life activities,” whether on or off the job, the employer must follow ADA rules in treating the disabled person.For ADA purposes, major life activities that may be limited by a mental health disorder could include learning, thinking, concentrating, interacting with others, caring for oneself, speaking, or performing manual tasks. Sleep also may be limited in such a way that daily activities are impaired. http://psychcentral.com/lib/bipolar-disorder-and-the-americans-with-disabilities-act/
So, we’ve established that bipolar disorder is a pretty serious illness. It’s not something within the control of the individual who has the disease. So, what can you do to help?
Helping someone in Crisis
- Stay calm. Talk slowly and use reassuring tones.
- Realize you may have trouble communicating with your loved one. Ask simple questions. Repeat them if necessary, using the same words each time.
- Don’t take your loved one’s actions or hurtful words personally.
- Say, “I’m here. I care. I want to help. How can I help you?”
- Don’t say, “Snap out of it,” “Get over it,” or “Stop acting crazy.”
- Don’t handle the crisis alone. Call family, friends, neighbors, people from your place of worship or people from a local support group to help you.
- Don’t threaten to call 911 unless you intend to. When you call 911, police and/or an ambulance are likely to come to your house. This may make your loved one more upset, so use 911 only when you or someone else is in immediate danger. http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=help_crisis
Help with Symptoms and Treatment
How can I help someone who has symptoms of depression?
Depression may cause someone to have feelings of unbearable sadness, guilt, worthlessness, and hopelessness. The person does not want to feel this way, but can’t control it. Make sure the person’s doctor knows what is happening, and ask if you can help with everyday tasks such as housekeeping, running errands, or watching children. Help your loved one try to stick to some sort of daily routine, even if he or she would rather stay in bed. Spend quiet time together at home if he or she does not feel like talking or going out. Keep reminding your loved one that you are there to offer support.
How can I help someone during a manic episode?
Remember that mania may cause a person to believe things that aren’t true, make big plans or life changes, spend money to excess, or do other things that may be dangerous. Sometimes a person might be more outgoing or enthusiastic during early stages of mania. Do your best to keep your loved one from doing things that might be harmful. Urge him or her to put off any plans to start a big project, spend a lot of money, drive a long distance, or anything that sounds dangerous to you. Keep in mind that he or she may insist that everything is under control. You may need to ask other friends, family members, or mental health professionals to intervene and help keep your loved one safe.
Encourage your loved one to see a doctor as soon as possible. Don’t make demands, threats, or ultimatums unless you are fully prepared to follow through with them. Keep yourself safe. If your loved one becomes abusive, call a friend, a family member, a mental health professional, or 911 for help.
What can I do to make sure my loved one gets good treatment?
- Encourage your loved one to seek treatment. Explain that treatment is not personality-altering and can greatly help to relieve symptoms.
- Help him or her prepare for health care provider appointments by putting together a list of questions. Offer to go along to health care appointments.
- With permission, talk to your loved one’s health care provider(s) about what you can do to help.
- Encourage or help your loved one to get a second opinion from another health care provider if needed.
- Help him or her keep records of symptoms, treatment, progress, and setbacks—in a journal, in a printed DBSA Personal Calendar, or in the DBSA Wellness Tracker online or phone app.
- Help him or her stick with the prescribed treatment plan. Ask if you can help by giving medication, therapy, or self-care reminders.
What if hospitalization is necessary?
Sometimes, when symptoms of depression or mania become severe, it is necessary for a person to be hospitalized. This might seem scary at first, but the safe, controlled environment of the hospital can help the person return to stability.
If you think your loved one might benefit from a hospital stay, find out all you can about local hospitals and the inpatient and outpatient services they offer. Try to do this before a crisis. Find out if his or her insurance or Medicare/Medicaid covers hospitalization, and if not, find out about community or state-run facilities.
If your loved one is open to doing so, suggest discussing the possibility of hospitalization with a doctor before the need arises, and making a list of preferred hospitals, medications, and treatment methods for use in a crisis.
While your loved one is hospitalized, be supportive by visiting frequently and bringing comforting or familiar items. Ask the staff questions; if theydon’t have the answers, find someone at the hospital who does. Don’t be afraid to be assertive about making sure your loved one receives the best treatment. Keep records of the people you talk to and when.
How can I support someone during outpatient treatment?
When your friend or family member begins seeing a doctor or therapist, show that you support the decision to seek treatment and ask how you can be most helpful. Learn about your loved one’s symptoms. Each person needs different kinds of help keeping symptoms under control. Learn about medications and what side effects to expect. Some people find it helpful to write down mania prevention and suicide prevention plans, and give copies to trusted friends and relatives. These plans should include:
- A list of symptoms that might be signs the person is becoming manic or suicidal.
- Things you or others can do to help when you see these symptoms.
- A list of helpful phone numbers, including health care providers, family members, friends, and a suicide crisis line such as (800) 273-TALK.
- A promise from your friend or family member that he or she will call you, other trusted friends or relatives, one of his or her doctors, a crisis line, or a hospital when manic or depressive symptoms become severe.
- Encouraging words such as “My life is valuable and worthwhile, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.”
- Reality checks such as, “I should not make major life decisions when my thoughts are racing and I’m feeling ‘on top of the world’. I need to stop and take time to discuss these things with others before I take action.
How long will it take before the person feels better?
Some people are able to stabilize quickly after starting treatment; others take longer and need to try several treatments, medications, or medication combinations before they feel better. Talk therapy can be helpful for managing symptoms during this time. If your friend or family member is facing treatment challenges, the person needs your support and patience more than ever. Education can help you both find out all the options that are available and decide whether a second opinion is needed. Help your loved one to take medication as prescribed, and don’t assume the person is not following the treatment plan just because he or she isn’t feeling 100% better. http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=help_symptoms_treatment
Help with Relationships
Depression and bipolar disorder pose a challenge not just to our health, but to our closest relationships as well. As friends and partners struggle against the fallout of guilt, confusion, and anger, genuine affection and/or intimacy often become difficult to maintain. Below are several resources to help you better understand and navigate relationships with your loved one.
How can I let my loved one know I’m here to help?
Learning how to navigate in an ever-changing world that is still relatively new to mental health treatment can be overwhelming and sometimes isolating not only for those who live with a mood disorder, but also their friends and loved ones. The DBSA I’m here… campaign offers suggestions—for both people living with a mood disorder and those who support—on ways to open up a channel for communication and to say, “I’m here…” Listen to or read advice from other friends and family members on ways to offer help or start the conversation.http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=help_relationships