Since our formation in the early 1980's, we've had a proud tradition of supporting everyone affected by bipolar. In 1982, Sheila Woodland from Wimbledon, London, placed an advert in The Guardian seeking responses from people directly affected by manic depression (as bipolar was then known). 

Soon after, Philomena Germing from Barnes, London, placed similar adverts in The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Observer. When the two women found out about each other, they decided to join forces. 

The 180 respondents were contacted individually to suggest that they met to form a society. The first meeting was held in January 1983 at Church House, Westminster Cathedral, and was attended by 43 people.

Among the views shared, a number of common concerns were raised:

  1. GPs and psychiatrists were evasive about the illness
  2. Conflicting advice was being offered by legal and medical professionals
  3. A major debate about whether manic depression is inherited or not

A report of the meeting included the following appeal: "We should work to dispel the stigma, secrecy and widespread ignorance of manic depression. Manic depressives should be more open about the condition and still find suitable jobs".

Roll forward 37 years to 2020 and sadly it doesn’t feel like the world of mental health has moved forward a great deal, and our community still reports these issues as matters of concern. That’s why this year we will be launching the ‘Bipolar Commission’ which seeks to take proactive steps in addressing key issues faced by our community, for example the tragic suicide rates - we estimate that every day 3 people with bipolar complete suicide. It's also an aim of ours that we can achieve parity of esteem for mental health services for people with bipolar.

The Manic Depression Fellowship

In May 1983 the first newsletter was sent out, focusing on the need for local self-help groups and the need for funding support. It was proposed that interested individuals could pay an annual subscription of £5. This is where our direct service provision began. Support groups remain central to our work, and we now run over 85 support support groups across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since starting work in 1983, we have focused on direct service provision and meeting the needs of individuals affected by bipolar. As a small charity we have seen first-hand how dramatically demand for services has increased. 

Becoming Bipolar UK

In 2011, we publicly consulted on key strategic planning issues. The phenomenal response led to the development of a new five-year strategy, five-year strategy and a new charity name – Bipolar UK. Alongside our service delivery work, we have also raised public awareness and understanding of bipolar and its effects. Two notable successes have been working with King’s College London to conduct research into Advance Choice Documents, which influenced the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act and research into the role of digital technology in self-management, which resulted in our prototype chatbot and Zoom peer support groups being created.

The future of Bipolar UK

In the years ahead, providing peer support services remain central to everything we do. Hundreds of thousands of people affected by bipolar still lack basic support and self-management knowledge. We are looking to use digital technology to scale up and expand our existing provision to ensure everyone affected by bipolar can live well and achieve their potential.

Bipolar UK remains committed to being your innovative, sustainable national bipolar charity.