Monday, June 26, 2006

Bipolar Disorder

It’s been a pretty slow week at work really. The one job that sticks in my mind was a call to a care home for people suffering from mental illnesses. Lisa (not her real name) is young lady with Bipolar Disorder.

Every morning, the home has a “Morning Session” where residents meet and discuss with the group how they’re feeling and what issues are affecting them both positively and negatively. Lisa had woken up feeling more stressed than usual. She usually finds the Morning Session a positive thing, but today it had not been as structured as it normally is and had descended into chaos.

This had upset Lisa, and she was now having a depressive crisis to the point of feeling suicidal.

We couldn’t really do much for her other than take her to hospital who could arrange for a psychiatric assessment, but what struck me was although she was clearly depressive, she was able to hold a reasonable conversation calmly, and to state her needs clearly. What impressed me most was her recognition that she needed help and had to guts to ask for it.

I hope they are able to stabilise her moods, and that she goes on to lead as normal a life as possible.


After reading some of the comments on this post, I decided to write to Anna Raeburn on LBC radio and asked her if she'd consider doing a programme about Bipolar. She has replied, and the charity MIND have offered her a guest speaker on the subject, but the programme probably won't be broadcast until October. Anna's promised to keep me updated when a firm date is set so I can let you know.

You can listen to LBC in London on 97.3FM, and elsewhere online or on Sky channel 0177.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bipolar disorder is scary, and the help available can be somewhat lacking. I usually post as myself but as I also don't usually admit to being bipolar I will post this anonymously. I hope they get her moods stabilised, and thank you for bringing this to the attention of others who do not have the disorder.

Like your patent, in general I know what I need, I can talk quite eloquantly about it in fact, but sometimes, just sometimes it gets the better of me. What we really need is understanding, and that sadly is lacking. Bipolar can alienate your friends, people with this illness need all the support that can be offered to them.

12:03 pm  
Anonymous Student MHN said...

This is a problem with all Mental (ill) Health - the stigma. People are scared of what they don't understand and can't "see"

We need to keep making it more public and not hide it away like it is something to be ashamed of.

4:50 pm  
Anonymous Sage said...

I had (and still don't) know what is bipolar and therefore what people who have it need. Anyone care to enlighten me?


4:50 pm  
Blogger Steve said...


Follow the link on the words Bipolar Disorder. I thought the site linked to gives a very good description.

4:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is as good a description of bipolar as any I've seen on the web. The highs are amazing you're briming with ideas, everything works, everything gells. Other's may tell you that you're doing too much or that it will never work but you just feel they are trying to get you down and ignore them. The lows are horrifying, you feel useless, everything you do falls appart, you can't believe the things you have done, why did you think that you could do that, why did you think that that was a good idea - why did you sleep with that person? Why did you spend so much money? What is the point in going on? Where is the point in living.

It's not fun... but it can be controlled as the site points out it is not a psychological disorder, it is a physical problem, albeit one based in the brain. Psychologists get themselves in hellish twists trying to explain this to people but at a simplistic level think of the brain as the physical, the mind as the thoughts and feelings and the 'brain-mind' as the interactions between the two. The physical problems with the brain cause the emotional problems that are the symptoms. Bipolar patients tend to present as classic depression innitially and I read somewhere that it takes an average of eight years for a gp to realise that there is something more going on than just depression. This is mostly because hypomania feels good, people often don't see the hypomanic part of it as a problem, and, if they never escalate into severe mania and psychosis they may never see a medical professional while in that state.

I'm going to stop babling now, I hope for readers who are scared a little by all the medical terminology that makes it a little clearer. As I said very scary, most bipolar patients start out not having any clue what's wrong with them just that something's not right. Once the diagnosis has been made it makes life more tollerable. Not necessarily easier but more easily rationalised.

It's also easier for those around you. Friends and family can be made aware that the behaviour isn't deliberate or personal. It's a side effect.

11:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to play devils advocate slightly, yes,she knew she needed help and yes credit to her for asking for that help and yes it does make a change to feel that your (emergency) patient actually needs and wants help as opposed to a 6 paracetamol and some vodka suicide attempt. But, did this patient actually require a 999 ambulance?

1:49 pm  
Blogger Steve said...

anon - I take your point, but my personal opinion is that while the Lisa's of this world aren't necessarily a life-threatening call, they are arguably more deserving of an ambulance than the 30-something big girls blouses suffering from man-flu for the last hour.

Or do you suggest that we wait for them to attempt suicide, then have to send two ambulances plus FRU because they are in cardiac arrest?

5:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No far from it (and I am sorry to be posting anonymously but 1 I don't post often and 2 can't remember my password!)but from how you are describing the scenario she lives in a well supported environment. By your own admission and also my own experiences there is nothing any emt or paramedic is going to do except possible talk to and take to hospital. Surely a taxi could do the same? Or, even better, she's in a care home for people with mental health problems, surely they should have some access to crisis care without having to dial 999. 999 is used as a fall back for too many situations that are far from life threatening!

6:21 pm  
Anonymous barefootruby said...

In my view, many people who suffer from "mental health problems" are just people who have problems that they can't cope with right now. Mental illness can hit any of us, just like flu or chicken pox.

I visited a psychiatric ward once (never mind why) and my overwhelming thought was "there but for the grace of god go I".

Congratulations on the way you treated this casualty, Steve. First Aid isn't always about physical injuries; sometimes it is "first aid of the mind" that is needed (as was pointed out to me by a Salvation Army lady a couple of years ago - and which leads on to a whole different story...)

10:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, please don't get me wrong, I am not saying that mental health issues should be hidden away and ignored, and yes you are very right to say "there but for the grace of god" and yes Steve you treated the patient in exactly the way 1 I would have liked to have been treated myself and 2 the way I would like to think I would have treated the patient myself (I am an EMT in EMAS)

The point I am trying to put across though is surely the home/unit that the patient was in should have better access to some crisis treatment than simply 999 - ambulance - A&E.


4:04 pm  
Blogger Spike said...

barefootruby said... Mental illness can hit any of us ... "there but for the grace of god go I".

Hear hear.

8:26 am  

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