Educate yourself about the illness

Research and learn more about your loved one's diagnosis of bipolar. Not only will you understand bipolar better but you'll be showing your loved one that you're keen to understand and support them better.

Have realistic expectations

There's no current cure for bipolar but with the right self-management and support, individuals with bipolar can lead a stable life. There will be limitations to how you can support your loved one. Understand that you can't help or fix everything. There will be times when someone with bipolar will also need to help themselves.

Listen and learn

Listen to your loved one's experiences and find out what has worked for them in the past. Ask how you can support them. If they've recently been diagnosed, have a look at our mood scale and mood diary, which are good tools for tracking moods and behaviour. This can also help you identify triggers for elevated or low moods.

Ask them how they're feeling

Be open and ask someone how they're feeling. This is also a good chance for you to talk about your own feelings so you can work together to build a healthier relationship. Don't make your loved one feel ashamed of their mental health. Encourage them to talk openly about any issues while you listen without judgement.

Assist your loved one to seek help and support

Encourage your loved one to seek help from mental health professionals. This could be through regular contact with their Community Mental Health Team, GP or psychiatrist. They can also seek peer support from our Support Groups, Telephone Mentoring service and eCommunity.

Ask them what you should do if they're unwell

When your loved one is experiencing a high or low mood or is in a crisis, knowing what decisions to make can be difficult. Speak with your loved one when they're in a balanced mood and draw up an action plan on what to do when they're unwell. It may also be useful to talk about warning signs and triggers.

Ask to be a named person on their care and treatment plan

Due to confidentiality laws, you must be a named person on their care and treatment plan to access or provide information when they're unwell. As you know your loved one more than most, you'll be able to offer invaluable information that can be important when they are unwell. However, if your loved one chooses not to do this, you must respect their decision.

Accept that feelings of guilt and frustration are normal

It's good to acknowledge your feelings and accept any negative feelings that you might have. These feelings don't make you a bad person and acknowledging this can help you move on. Try to work out where these thoughts are coming from. Are you setting yourself unrealistic goals? You'll then be able to make clearer decisions that will benefit you and your loved one.

Help yourself

Your own health and wellbeing are paramount. In order to support your loved one, you have to be well too. Take some time out for yourself. Maybe try some physical activities, meet up with friends or take some time for reflection.

Ask for help

There's a lot of pressure when you're providing care and support for your loved one. Try and stay calm and level-headed in difficult situations and don't forget to ask for help and support. We can't do everything by ourselves and getting extra support will only help your loved one too.