Timing is important
It is best to have these discussions when the person is relatively well. If the person has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder they may not be ready to accept the illness or discuss its management.
Keep the lines of communication open
Invite the person to share their views on what helps people to manage bipolar disorder and listen to their point of view. Make use of good communication skills.
Use ordinary language
Don’t feel obliged to use psychiatric jargon. Many families have their own ways of talking about the illness (e.g. feeling really down or very high).
Ask what you can do to help
If appropriate in your situation, mention that you would like to help with the illness, but do not want to be intrusive or get in the way of the person’s own illness management strategies. You could ask the person what you can do to help in specific circumstances (e.g. what you can do to help when the person struggles to get up in the morning when they are becoming depressed , or how to assist them with their plans to prevent relapse). There is a possibility that the person may not know what help they need. If you have some ideas about how you could help, discuss these options tactfully with the person.
Check things out with the person
Another idea is to check with the person when they are well if the support you have been providing is appropriate.
- Making agreements and plans
- Supporting the person who is disappointed about relapsing
- If the person has difficulty carrying out their illness management strategies . It can be difficult for the person to use strategies to reduce symptoms because they may need to go against what their mood tells them to do. For example, they may need to decrease activities instead of racing around when they are becoming manic, or get out of bed when they are feeling depressed and lacking in energy
- Difficulties in working with the person to manage the bipolar disorder (e.g. if there is conflict between you or they refuse your help or to be treated or to manage their illness).