Bipolar disorder Pendulum: stories and information Work and learning Students and Young People Michael was diagnosed with bipolar during his first year at university. He had to drop out twice and then take a year out. He has been stable for the past three years and has just successfully completed his degree. If you have a diagnosis, make sure your college/university is aware of it These days all colleges and universities have student welfare services and/or other provisions for pastoral care in place, staffed by people experienced with dealing with mental health problems who can be a great source of support. If they are aware that there’s a potential problem you might be surprised by how accommodating they will be – it’s much more difficult to make allowances for things like missing deadlines or exams retrospectively than if they know it might happen in advance. Make sure you have a support network Particularly if you are starting at university or college, you are likely to be surrounded by people who don’t know you very well. Until I developed clearly psychotic symptoms, nobody realised that I was in a manic episode; what was in fact very outlandish behaviour for me was seen by those around me as typical fresher hi-jinks or showing off. It’s definitely worth checking if there’s a Bipolar UK Support Group near you or contacting Bipolar UK’s Youth Service. I recently started going to the London Youth Group and find it extremely helpful. Try and ensure you check in regularly with family and friends at home, too. Everything in moderation Drinking (and, to a lesser extent, taking recreational drugs) is seen by many as an essential part of the student lifestyle, but can also exacerbate symptoms and act as a trigger for people with bipolar. Realising that I just didn’t have the freedom to be as reckless as my peers was a bitter pill to swallow, but was a turning point in effectively managing my condition. Have patience It can be frustrating and lengthy process finding a ‘cocktail’ of medication that works for you, but it’s worth sticking at it – I struggled with various unpleasant side effects for years until I found the right combination, but once I did it made such a difference! Don’t try and continue studies until you feel strong and stable enough to. Life is long and your education can wait, but your mental health can’t.