Young people living with bipolar and their families are shaping the future of NHS support services in the North East with their vital expertise. 

More than 30 individuals took part in an engagement day at the Adolescent Bipolar Service (ABS), a service provided by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust in Newcastle.

ABS provides second opinions for young people living with bipolar and their families across the whole of the UK with most referrals coming from the north of England and Scotland. Current and former service users and their supporters were invited to join with some coming from as far away as Dundee and Carlisle to offer their expertise.

The event, held in partnership with Bipolar UK, was the first of what's hoped to be many engagement days, allowing families a safe space to provide vital information and feedback on how ABS can best support them.

Some of their suggestions will be brought into ABS with immediate effect and the service will focus on making further improvements so ABS staff can provide the best possible support.

I supported the participants as they chose photographs that they felt represented their experiences, before sharing their views on a range of themes. These included how services can make a difference, moving forward into adult services, improving ABS specifically, and research.

Former ABS service users shared their stories about living well with bipolar with people in their mid-twenties offering advice and support to young people in their mid-teens who are just starting their journey through diagnosis and treatment.

Those at the end advised on vital aspects of care provision, highlighting the need to support families as a unit, the importance of listening, and different agencies working together.

Beads and craft materials on a table

Attendees also stressed that more work is needed to make the transition to adult services easier, for more consistency across different services, integrated psycho-social interventions, and a call for group psychotherapy, which ABS is currently investigating. Young people and their families also shared what they would like to see prioritised for bipolar research.

This was a great event and a fantastic opportunity to see so many young people and their families represented. We had a wonderful range of experiences in the room, from those who were newly diagnosed to those who had managed bipolar for many years. It was an absolute pleasure to be involved and help facilitate the day. The young people were such an inspiration.