Bipolar UK's Support Officer, Molly and other support colleagues  will do everything they can to support you and the people you care for. Here she details how.

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly difficult and impactful for those across the world, but people with long-term health conditions have been disproportionately impacted. Mental health concerns impact around a quarter of the UK’s population, and people affected by bipolar disorder are among those finding things the most difficult, experiencing an increase or worsening in already existent symptoms, and for those from low income backgrounds or a variety of minority communities, the health inequalities are only increasing. With the focus on health services turning towards combating the virus, people with bipolar disorder are reporting finding it harder to access services, and those who are pre-diagnosis are often having crucial appointments delayed, leaving them to manage the uncertainty and anxiety about their diagnosis alone.

We wanted to speak openly about the way that our service users have been affected, in the hope that it enables others to feel less alone, and to reach out for support. To book a call with our Peer Support Line please choose a booking slot using the chat bot.

An example that I often find helpful when thinking about the way that our mental health works is to imagine the brain is like a big plastic bucket- strange I know but stay with me! All the stresses of life, all the input you have day-to-day are like glasses of water pouring into that bucket. Some of these stressors might be smaller, shot glass sized dribbles of water, and some might be bigger; a full pint glass slosh of stress filling the bucket. All the management tools you have developed are like holes in that bucket, releasing the water slowly but surely. These will be different for different people- they might be social support, family support, medication, therapeutic interventions or self-management.

In addition they might include support groups or telephone lines, regular exercise or creative hobbies. All of these holes serve a key purpose- they stop the bucket from becoming too full too fast. For many people, these releases are being seriously impacted by the pandemic; you might not be able to see your social support network any longer, you might not be able to go to the gym or the way you access therapy may have changed. As well as this, the size of those glasses of water might be getting bigger; what was once a drip is now a flood, and before you know it the water is at the brim, and you’re not sure where to turn.

These concerns are impacting everyone who uses our services; those with the diagnosis, their family members, friends and loved ones. For many people in the UK, concerns about the pandemic are very real and very important. However, for people with an enduring mental health condition like bipolar disorder, these stressors are not just temporary, not just unpleasant blips in the year. They have a real, tangible impact that, for some of the people we support, may cause changes that take longer than the pandemic lasts to recover from. We are supporting people who are experiencing their first ever episode of psychosis, their first ever hospitalisation, their first relapse after years of successful management- these are serious consequences of an incredibly difficult time that could have repercussions that last months, or even years.

I know that with the second lockdown our community will be feeling this more than ever. We are always here and will do everything we can to support you and the people you care for. Please reach out to us and access our services, our webinars and let us offer you support, information and advice throughout the lockdown and beyond. You can contact us directly by emailing [email protected] or book a call with a staff member through our chatbot.

We will get through this together.