Mental health issues are often a controversial issue in most Ghanaian societies. Those with mental conditions hardly speak out, and families taking care of those people often suffer discrimination. But in Ghana, one man who once suffered from bipolar disorder encourages people to speak about the disease.
Bright Tavi is a trained nurse and QualityRights advocate/champion previously diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.
Everyone has variations in their mood, but in bipolar disorder these changes can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life. You may feel that your high and low moods are extreme, and that swings in your mood are overwhelming.
Depending on the way you experience these mood states, and how severely they affect you, your doctor may diagnose you with a particular type of bipolar disorder.
Seeing someone you care about going through the moods and symptoms of bipolar disorder can be distressing. But there are lots of steps you can take to offer support, while also looking after your own wellbeing.
Be open about bipolar disorder
Being open to talking to someone about their experiences can help them feel supported and accepted. If you find it hard to talk about your experiences or want to learn more, you can visit the Bipolar UK website.
Make a plan for manic episodes
When your friend or family member is feeling well, try talking to them about how you can support them if they have a hypomanic or manic episode. This can help both of you feel more stable and in control of what’s happening. You could discuss ideas such as:
enjoying being creative together
offering a second opinion about projects or commitments, to help someone not take on too much
if they would like you to, helping to manage money while they are unwell
helping them keep a routine, including regular meals and a good sleep pattern
Discuss behaviour you find challenging
If someone is hearing or seeing things you don’t, they might feel angry, annoyed or confused if you don’t share their beliefs. It’s helpful to stay calm, and let them know that, although you don’t share the belief, you understand that it feels real for them. Or, if possible, try to focus on supporting them with how they are feeling rather than confirming or challenging their perception of reality – what feels real for them is real in those moments.
If someone becomes very disinhibited while manic, they may do things that feel embarrassing, strange or upsetting to you. It can be helpful to calmly discuss your feelings with them when they are feeling more stable. Try not to be judgemental or overly critical; focus on explaining how specific things they’ve done make you feel, rather than making general statements or accusations about their actions.
Learn their warning signs and triggers
Most people will have some warning signs that they are about to experience an episode of mania or depression. The best way to learn what these are for your friend or family member is to talk to them about these and explore together what they might be. If you have noticed certain behaviours that normally happen before an episode, you can gently let them know.
Many people will also have triggers, such as stress, which can bring on an episode. You can try to understand what these triggers are for your friend or family member, and how you can help avoid or manage them.