COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the UK. In May we conducted a survey to find out what impact it’s had on people affected by bipolar – including family and friends. We worked with a number of universities and people with lived experience to draft up the survey, which covered a range of topics from people’s experience of COVID-19 itself, to mood and access to services during lockdown.

We are blown away by the response – we have received over 1,700 responses in two weeks!  Preliminary results show that, perhaps as might be expected, many people with the condition are struggling due to the stress, uncertainty and isolation of lockdown. 67% of people reported their mood was more unpredictable since mid-March, with the number experiencing feelings of panic and anxiety more than doubling.  

As we all know, sleep is a crucial trigger for people with the condition so it’s concerning that 65% of people said they were finding it harder to sleep than usual. 

The report also reveals that, while their bipolar symptoms have worsened, people have been having more difficulty getting help from health services. Of those respondents who accessed such services before the lockdown, over 60% said post-COVID they had found it harder to access a GP or psychiatrist; with nearly half the sample (48%) saying it was harder to reach a Crisis Team for urgent help.

Bipolar UK CEO Simon Kitchen said: “We’re grateful that so many people in our community took the time to complete this survey. It’s a very important tool to tell us how people with bipolar are coping in the current crisis and where best to focus our limited resources to help them as much as we possibly can”.

We hope to publish the full results of the survey soon. The information will be used to inform our own service development, and will be also fed into the government, to inform their decision-making on the lockdowns. It will help policymakers and funders understand the scale of the challenge facing our community and ensure that we aren’t forgotten about.