The Bipolar Commission in Wales 

On 6 June 2023, Bipolar UK presented the findings of the Bipolar Commission in Wales at a lunchtime reception at the National Centre for Mental Health in Cardiff.

The Bipolar Commission’s key findings in Wales:

  • 2% of the adult population in Wales are estimated to be living with bipolar (50,000 people).
  • It’s estimated a further 250,000 people in Wales are significantly negatively affected by the condition as they have a close friend or family member with bipolar.
  • The average time to diagnosis after first telling a clinician about symptoms in Wales is 11.9 years, compared to 9.4 years in England.
  • The current best accurate measure of prevalence (the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Study) only covers England, but suggests that more than half of those living with bipolar do not have a diagnosis.
  • Bipolar is a key driver of health inequalities. The Bipolar Commission found people with bipolar are 50% more likely to be obese and are more likely to die 10-15 years younger than the general population from all forms of mortality including cardiovascular disease, cancer and suicide.
  • Bipolar is also a key driver of income inequality. People living with bipolar are more likely to have an income at least a third less than the national average. Two thirds of our community report having lost a job and over a third believe they had been passed over for promotion due to the condition. This compounds the problems further - 39% of our community told us their symptoms had been triggered by money worries.

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The Bipolar Commission's joint position statement:

During the event, key opinion leaders met for a roundtable discussion to put together the joint position statement below. On Friday 16 June 2023, they signed and sent the statement to Lynne Neagle MS, Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing for the Welsh government.

We call on the Welsh Government to make Wales the most bipolar-friendly country in the world by making and delivering on the following 4 commitments:

  1. Reduce the average delay to diagnosis from 11.9 years in Wales down to five years within five years. This could include public awareness campaigns and specialist diagnosis centres.
  2. Provide a specialist care pathway for bipolar patients. This would be on a par with early interventions for psychosis services, it would be psychiatrist-led and would prioritise continuity of care.
  3. Develop standards for bipolar care. These could be regularly audited by an independent third party, such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
  4. Provide effective psychoeducation for everyone with bipolar. This would mean rolling out self-management courses across Wales.

People with bipolar in Wales need and deserve early diagnosis, specialist treatment, continuity of care and effective self-management advice. This will dramatically reduce the risk of severe bipolar episodes and empower people to lead good long lives with minimal ongoing clinical support. It is win-win for the patient, their family, their employers and the NHS in Wales.

Signed by:

Simon Kitchen, CEO Bipolar UK 

Professor Ian Jones, Director of The National Centre for Mental Health in Cardiff

Professor Euan Hails MBE, Director of Clinical and Therapeutic Governance, Adferiad Recovery

Dr Oliver John, Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales Manager

Councillor Norma Mackie, Cardiff Council 

Professor Arianna Di Florio, Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, Cardiff University

Dr Clare Dolman, researcher, co-chair of Bipolar Commission who has lived experience of bipolar

Jackie Dix, commissioner for Bipolar Commission who has lived experience of bipolar 

Last updated: 28 September 2023