How to support a family with a child suffering from bipolar disorder?

3 min read

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depression, is a mental illness characterized by alternating periods of excitement and depression. Having a child with bipolar disorder can be challenging for parents, who must face suffering, misunderstanding, guilt, stress, and isolation. Parents need support, information, advice, and comfort. As a friend or relative, you can play an important role in helping them through this ordeal. Here are some tips to support them.

Educate yourself about the illness

To be able to help, it's essential to educate yourself about the illness, its symptoms, causes, treatments, and consequences. There are many reliable sources of information, such as websites, books, brochures, or specialized associations. You can also seek information from the parents to better understand their situation.

Listen and communicate with the parents

Parents of bipolar children need to be heard, understood, and respected. They need to talk about their experiences, emotions, difficulties, and hopes. They need to feel supported but not judged, infantilized, or blamed. Therefore, offer them attentive, empathetic, and compassionate listening. Engage in dialogue with them, ask questions, provide information, suggest solutions, but avoid imposing anything. Respect their pace, choices, and autonomy.

Offer practical help

Parents of bipolar children can be overwhelmed by daily tasks, family responsibilities, administrative procedures, and medical appointments. They might need concrete help to lighten their load and allow them some breathing space. You can offer to help by babysitting the child or their siblings, doing groceries, accompanying them on errands, inviting them out, etc. You can also suggest external resources like home helpers, social workers, educators, etc.

Encourage the parents

Parents of bipolar children may have low self-esteem, feeling devalued, helpless, or depressed. They might think they're not good parents, not doing enough, or not measuring up. Therefore, encourage and value them, remind them of their qualities, skills, and successes. Show them your appreciation, admiration, and pride in them. Help them realize everything they do for their child, all they've accomplished, and everything they've overcome.

Bipolar disorder is a complex and chronic illness that requires tailored management and family support. Parents of bipolar children might feel alone. They need the support of their friends and relatives to help them through this ordeal. By following these tips, you can support them and contribute to their well-being.