In order to support a family member or friend with bipolar disorder first take steps to take care of yourself. As the saying goes, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, if they are available in an emergency on an airplane, before you put it on someone else. If you are not taking care of yourself chances are you cannot then take care of somebody else. It helps to do research on this mental illness and be open about it to yourself, friends, family and the individual with the mental illness. Knowing the symptoms of mania and depression will help you and your loved one. You can help them recognize when an episode is coming on or is in full swing. You can urge them to talk to their therapist and doctor if they are exhibiting symptoms of depression or mania. Making a plan beforehand for episodes of mania and depression, which includes input from the one living with bipolar disorder, will be helpful to you and them. Having them write this plan out may be useful if they can read it again when they are in an episode. The individual may not be able to recognize if they are in mania or depression if their judgement if of. Discuss the challenges you face with their behavior when they are in an episode and get support also from family and friends. Remind the individual with bipolar disorder that this too shall pass. Frequently when someone is depressed they believe it will last forever and the mood will not lift. Suggest peer-to-peer support groups that can be found at the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) at nami.org and Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) at dbsalliance.org. NAMI also provides support groups for those who are affected by with someone with mental illness.
Take good care,
Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence, -- Helen Keller