Question: What can family members or friends to help someone manage bipolar disorder?
Answer: The major thing that friends and family can provide for someone with bipolar disorder is stability. And this is because so many of the symptoms and problems that characterize bipolar disorder are associated with lability and instability. The same person can behave and feel very differently from one phase of the disorder to the next. So it's very important for people around the person to actually provide a feeling that things haven't changed -- that the person is still the same person, their relationships are still there, and that things will be stable. This even goes into mundane things like what time of day the person wakes up, when they actually leave the house, what kind of job they do, and the shifts that they work, what time the family has dinner -- all of these little things actually can make a big impact on stability in a person's life, especially if that person is struggling with symptoms of bipolar disorder. So that's really the first point.
The second point about friends and family making an impact helping somebody manage bipolar disorder is to provide them access to a therapeutic environment. Bipolar disorder can be a difficult condition to struggle with, but it's very treatable, and as long as treatment is available. So family members should always encourage people with bipolar disorder to seek help, talk to their psychiatrist, talk to their therapist, get into a treatment program if that's what they need, and provide them with that access. And oftentimes, during these acute episodes of illness when people are really not feeling well, those are the kinds of interventions that will actually change the course of events, and ensure that the person with bipolar disorder actually significantly improves, and can return to their lives.