Peer Services Manager, Rosie Phillips, gives an update on how digital has helped Bipolar UK maintain its services throughout the coronavirus pandemic and innovate at the same time. Bipolar UK works on a model of peer support, that is, people with the diagnosis helping others who have it too. This translates well in an online environment.

 

Support groups go zoom

In the days when you could walk down the street, pop to the shops and get on a bus without a care, your monthly Bipolar UK support meeting may well have been just another note in your diary. Now, in covid times, it has become a bit of a beacon, a lifeline of support whether you are feeling well and can reach out to help others or struggling and in need of a boost. If you are new to the diagnosis, it is likely you don’t know anyone else living with bipolar and our support groups provide a chance to meet others affected by it in a safe and facilitated environment. The format of the meetings vary, but you will have the opportunity to introduce yourself, say how you are feeling using the Bipolar UK mood scale and may listen to an invited speaker. The groups are organised and facilitated by volunteers who are affected by bipolar in some way.

 

Since last spring some local support groups have moved online and you can use our chatbot on the right of this screen to check if there is a zoom meeting local to you by typing in “Support Groups” and then your postcode. We also have national online support meetings for those who do not have a local group. A further development for us has been the start of specialist meetings for specific groups (family, young people or carers for example) or on a particular topic such as work and learning. Check out our online events diary for details.

 

Facts and figures about support groups

 

The eCommunity

Our online forum, the eCommunity, has come into its own during the pandemic. Available 24/7 and moderated between 8am and 8pm it’s a safe space (guided by house rules) to share your experience - medication, health services, symptoms and relationships or simply hang out with the 7000 people who “get it”. The forum works anonymously, so no-one knows who you are or your circumstances unless you choose to tell them.  Registration asks for a few essential details to help us contact you if we need to and understand who is using the eCommunity and manage the service accordingly. If you are not a member of the eCommunity already, check out our sign in page  and see if it could help you.

 

Facts and figures about the eCommunity

  • 9000+ members
  • Anonymous service
  • Topics include:
    • Medication
    • Relationships
    • Family, carers and friends
    • Pregnancy and Parenting 

Our chatbot

Developed with Comic Relief’s Tech for Good fund, our chatbot is a database of 3000 questions and almost 1000 answers relating to bipolar and Bipolar UK’s activities. Because it’s an automated system it is good for factual questions (e.g. What are the symptoms of bipolar? Where are your offices?)  and not opinion or personal information relating to diagnosis or medication. It does however provide speedy answers to questions during evenings and weekends when Bipolar UK staff are not around. In addition, it is a gateway to other support services. As mentioned above you can find a local support group through the chatbot. You can also book a call with our Peer Support Line, a one-to-one phone service. Type “I want to speak to someone” in the chatbot on the right of this page and a booking diary will appear. As we are a small team, bookings are a week ahead.

 

Facts and figures about the chatbot

  • 2400 conversations per month
  • Available in 103 languages
  • Anonymous service
  • Recent questions include:
    • Do animals experience bipolar?
    • What are the effects on daily living?
  • And our most popular question: Is bipolar hereditary?

 

Facebook lives

At the start of the covid pandemic we knew that those living with bipolar would find life more challenging than ever and thought about how we could help and support them. Our CEO Simon Kitchen and media ambassador April Kelley embarked on weekly facebook livestreams to host informal conversations about living through coronavirus if you have the condition. These are now a regular fixture on a Friday (and recorded for catch up). Visit our online events diary to see what’s coming up or our video library for past conversations.

 

Pendulum: our blog

In pre-digital days Bipolar UK published a monthly magazine, Pendulum. Now we are online this has moved to our website and the Pendulum blog hosts a wealth of personal stories and information. So much so, that we wanted to make sure people could easily find ”evergreen” content, not so fresh, but very much relevant. Plus we wanted to have a focus for emerging help and tips for covid times. Visit the blog and use the quick links to find a library of personal experiences and information to support your needs.

 

Facts and figures about Pendulum: our blog

  • Over 350 posts

  • Topics include:
    • What is bipolar?
    • Medication and treatment
    • Experience of Black and Asian people
    • Work and learning
  • Regular guest contributors 

Using technology to reach more people

Our website remains the hub of our digital efforts and we are spending some time understanding how people use the site and therefore what additions and improvements we can make. With a small team it may take time, but we are getting there.

 

We look forward to seeing more of you online