Dr Neil O’Brien, Clinical Chief Officer, NHS North Durham CCG
THE recent World Bipolar Day made me think that I’d like people to talk more freely about mental health, how it affects them and how we can offer support to sufferers during their best and worst days.
Bipolar is a fairly common condition which affects one in 100 people and is certainly nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
The condition is characterised by having periods or episodes of depression, where someone is feeling very low, and periods of mania where they feel very high and overactive.
During an episode of depression you may have overwhelming feelings of worthlessness which can potentially lead to thoughts of suicide.
If you’re feeling suicidal or having severe depressive symptoms, contact your GP, care co-ordinator or local mental health emergency services as soon as possible.
During a manic phase of bipolar disorder you may feel very happy and have lots of energy, ambitious plans and ideas. You may spend large amounts of money on things you can’t afford and wouldn’t normally want.
Not feeling like eating or sleeping, talking quickly and becoming annoyed easily are also common characteristics of this phase.
If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing symptoms of bipolar, I would encourage them to visit their GP so they can be referred to the right professional help. If their illness puts them at risk of harming themselves, their GP will arrange an appointment immediately.
A psychiatrist will be able to assess someone’s needs and talk about potential treatments.
Treatment for bipolar disorder aims to reduce the severity and number of episodes of depression and mania to allow the person affected to lead as normal a life as possible.
Some people don’t need treatment, but others feel it can really help them on their journey to wellness.
The most common treatments are lithium carbonate, anticonvulsant medicines and antipsychotic medicines.
It is vitally important for anyone diagnosed with bipolar to know they have people they can talk to. Many benefit hugely from chatting to family and friends about their condition as it can be very scary and they may feel out of control. If you know someone who is suffering, let them know that they can talk to you about how they are feeling.
If you’re unwell you can contact your GP or Talking Changes on 0191 3333300 to self refer for support and treatment.
There are also local services available on LOCATE, the council’s map of services, which can be found online at durhamlocate.org.uk.
If you need urgent help, NHS 111 is available at all hours.