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Bipolar and me

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog mentions bipolar disorder and may be upsetting in nature. If you need to talk to someone after reading this article, please call the Samaritans FREE on 116 123, 24/7.

What is Bipolar?

Bipolar is a serious mental Health illness that affects your mood. It causes a person to experience manic or depressive episodes as well as some psychotic symptoms during these episodes. 

Bipolar is one of the UK’s most common long term conditions, with almost as many people living with Bipolar as cancer. It is estimated that 1.3 million people in the UK live with Bipolar, that’s 1 in 50 people. It’s also worth noting that 56% of people with Bipolar in the UK are undiagnosed, indicating it’s prevalence.  

World Bipolar Day takes place on 30th March every year. To mark it this year, we’ve a special blog from one of our own staff, Dan.

Dan’s experience…

I have Bipolar Affective Disorder and have struggled with it for 20 years.

I used to work full-time in a busy office and figured that I was happy enough with my life.

Since 2017, I had a number of stressful events in my life which triggered various manic and depressive episodes.

I’ve had problems with my mood since my early twenties, but I was not diagnosed until much later in life. 

Following one major depressive episode at the age of 26, I was prescribed antidepressants by a psychiatrist and entered a major manic episode. Unfortunately, despite my symptoms, this wasn’t picked up. Being untreated for bipolar, the episodes continued, cycling between mania and depression for many years. 

I think the main reason that I was not diagnosed was that I held down a successful, sometimes stressful job throughout and managed a relatively stable life from anyone looking in.  

Mania

As I got older, my manic and depressive episodes began to last longer and became more severe. I was still prescribed antidepressants but not diagnosed. 

My friends, colleagues and I began to suspect that my mood swings may be an indication of bipolar, but unfortunately a number of mental health professionals were dismissive of my views. 

During another major depressive episode, one particular psychiatrist listened to my history. He tentatively diagnosed me with bipolar affective disorder, type II. It was difficult as he had not seen me during a manic episode. This time, I was prescribed a mood stabiliser along with an antidepressant, which helped for a time. 

Various major life events precipitated a manic episode, always followed by many months of depression, and I just about managed. Still, the manic episodes in particular began to worsen over time. 

During my most severe manic episode, at the age of 39, I experienced many symptoms. My spending was out of control. I would talk to anybody and made many new friends. People couldn’t keep up with my speech – I would flit from one subject to another constantly. I conceived a number of business ideas which at the time were unrealistic. I would be so busy running around doing different things, I would have up to thirty calendar entries in my phone that I wanted to achieve that day. Clearly, I never did. I barely slept – one or two hours a night and long periods without any sleep – but I somehow remained functional.

Sectioned

I was finally sectioned under the Mental Health Act. 

Being detained in an acute psychiatric unit was the best experience in my life when it came to my mental health. I received medical intervention in the form of an antipsychotic and two mood stabilisers. All of the staff were brilliant and easy to talk to. The structured day helped an awful lot and I found it much easier to sleep. After some weeks the mania subsided and the racing thoughts in my head began to ease. 

Following my release, I still entered a depression but it became easier to manage with the right medication and regular visits to my psychiatrist. 

In the early part of 2021 I decided I wanted to try something new. Having an interest in mental health, I joined Dorset Mind as a volunteer for The GAP Project in Dorchester. Just being outside, connecting with nature and helping others has had an enormously beneficial impact on my mental wellbeing.

In September 2021, an opportunity arose to work for Dorset Mind as a Coordinator for the new GAP Project in Weymouth and I am very proud of the work we have done so far.

I can honestly say that since joining Dorset Mind I am enjoying the most stable, peaceful and happy period for most of my adult life.

This is a far cry from the office environment I once worked in and I would highly recommend the GAP Project for anyone who is struggling with their mental health for whatever reason and who wishes to improve their mental wellbeing. 

Our Guest Blogger

Huge thanks to Dan Bradshaw for sharing his incredible personal journey. and how working with The GAP Project and connecting with nature has helped him on his recovery journey. 

Help and Support

The GAP Project is Dorset Mind’s ecotherapy project, of which Dan is working on. Find out more about the benefits of Ecotherapy and how you can get involved here.

Bipolar UK is a national charity that specialises in supporting people with bipolar.

BlogNews

Reasons to be hopeful

The overwhelming emotion I felt as I reflected on the National Suicide Prevention Alliance’s (NSPA) conference in January was one of hope. 

Nobody working within suicide prevention believes enough is being done to save lives, but it was clear from speakers and delegates attending that the commitment to make a difference is as strong as ever. 

And, as we all grapple with the ongoing mental fatigue brought about by the pandemic, we should take heart from both the data and the incredible work going on across the nation. 

Looking at the latest data from the Office of National Statistics and Real-Time Surveillance (RTS), which tracks the number of suspected and attempted suicides, the numbers are flat. Thankfully, the pandemic has not led to a rise in deaths by suicide, according to official data. 

However, we must put a big health warning on the numbers. It is too early to measure the real impact of this terrible virus. We may yet face the perfect storm as government support is withdrawn, the cost-of-living soars and people’s mental health is severely tested. 

One of the reasons I feel hope is there is not even a hint of complacency from anyone involved in suicide prevention, either in the voluntary or statutory sectors. 

As project lead for the Dorset Community Mental Health Alliance, I witness every day the desire to help people live happier lives. For some, it is a lifelong struggle but never has there been more awareness of people’s needs or more tools to help them find a way through. 

We know many people face prejudice and services that do not always meet their needs – whether they’re from LBGT+ or ethnic minority communities, feel isolated, are neurodiverse, live with socioeconomic deprivation on the margins of society or face a combination of factors. 

And while it is vital, we’re never complacent about gaps in services, there has never been a time when both mental health professionals, and their 3rd sector colleagues have been more aware of the need to do better. 

So, what can we do in practical terms to make a difference? 

With the support of our Public Health colleagues, we have been able to offer 15 voluntary organisations, which felt they needed better skills, free suicide prevention training. In March we will roll out more courses. 

We also want to help members develop suicide prevention strategies for their organisations.  

In 2022, we will be working with Ann Luce, Associate Professor in Journalism and Communication at Bournemouth University, who lost her partner Richard to suicide 16 years ago. She has dedicated the intervening years to a tireless pursuit of answers and solutions. 

Ann helped Dorset’s three universities produce a life-saving SP strategy, which not only recognises the unique set of challenges that young people face leaving home for the first time, but also gives staff and students clear guidance and support if a young person takes their own life on campus. 

We will support Dorset’s Multi-Agency Suicide Prevention Network colleagues as they look to identify emerging trends from the RTS data, while recognising it is the tip of the iceberg because it only records incidents reported to Dorset Police and British Transport Police. 

We will play our part in the NHS reforms with representation on both the Mental Health Integrated Strategic Programme Board and the Delivery Board, which will determine the county’s provision of mental health services. 

Many of our members are part of the Mental Health Integrated Community Care (MHICC) Project, which recognises that primary and community mental health services need large scale transformation to meet everyone’s needs. 

One death from suicide is one too many and so encouraged by the amazing work of the NSPA we must all reaffirm our commitment to create a society where nobody feels taking their own life is their only option. 

The alliance isn’t a crisis service 

If you or someone else is at serious risk of death or injury, call 999 and ask for the police and/or an ambulance 

For 24/7 emotional support, speak to The Samaritans FREE on 116 123 or visit, samaritans.org  

Connection is a 24/7 FREE helpline for Dorset residents or visitors of all ages. Call 0800 652 0190 or NHS 111 and select mental health, or visit, dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk/access-mental-health  

 

For more about NSPA, visit nspa.org.uk/  

For more about Dorset Mind, visit dorsetmind.uk/  

For more about the MHICC, visit dorsetccg.nhs.uk/cmh/   

To join the DCMHA, visit dcmha.uk/join/ 

News

PASSIONATE ABOUT IMPROVING LIVES

Suicide Prevention  

One of the founding principles of the Dorset Community Mental Health Alliance (DCMHA) is to tackle the tragic rate of suicide in Dorset. Every suicide in our community is a tragedy – for the life that is lost, for the family, friends and loved ones and for the ripple effect that each has on our society. 

All 38 organisations that belong to the DCMHA are dedicated to doing everything in their power to make a difference and to bring that number down. 

What are we doing to help? 

Firstly, we have made sure that everyone knows where to signpost someone in crisis, or who says they are having suicidal thoughts. If someone comes to any of us with a life-or-death crisis the right course of action is to call 999 or signpost them to The Samaritans or NHS Connection – a 24/7 FREE helpline. 

But we don’t want our responsibility to end there. 

  • The DCMHA has made suicide prevention training a key target this autumn. We’re taking part in a pilot project being run by our partners at Public Health Dorset (PHD) and we hope to roll out that training to as many members as possible between now and Christmas. Every member has already received a link for online training from Public Health England and Zero Suicide Alliance. 
  • We are learning lessons from the life-saving Real-Time Surveillance work that is being done by Public Health Dorset. This is helping our conversations about how we can come together to prevent more suicides with data that is current and relevant (the data we were working on last year was more than two years old). 
  • We are talking to the inspirational Alice Hendy, who set up R;pple Suicide Prevention in the wake of her brother Josh’s suicide late last year. R;pple is an online monitoring tool designed to flash a message of hope and support to anyone who searches harmful keywords or phrases on the PC. It takes a few minutes to get any PC protected. For more details, visit R;pple Suicide Prevention 
  • We are developing a blueprint for a Suicide Prevention Strategy, with the help of Bournemouth University and Dorset Healthcare NHS Trust, which will help members to ensure they have a framework in place, both for staff and volunteers, to prevent suicide from within their own organisations and for their service users, clients and participants. 
  • We are looking at ways for our members to help colleagues within the CCG and Public Health find solutions for people who repeatedly present to emergency services because they have attempted to take their own lives. This is a complex and ongoing project potentially involving a lot of different organisations from the NHS, Local Authorities, Police, GPs and the Voluntary Sector.  

It’s worth saying that every tragic life lost costs the country around £1.5M, so although the human cost is more important, there is a financial cost too.

Our other work 

Health Inequality Mental health inequalities are deeply rooted in our Society. We are supporting Community Action Network (CAN), Dorset Community Action (DCA) and Dorset Race Equality Council (DREC) with a Health Equality Partnership Project. The project has been commissioned by PHD and the NHS’s Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), to gather community insights and identify any areas of hidden health inequality that people with enduring mental health, learning disabilities and ethnic minority groups face. 

We’re sure our members can provide insight and help the project to engage with people with lived experience and find out the barriers they are facing when using preventative health services, including mental health. 

NHS Reforms We’ve also been discussing how best we can work with the new Integrated Care System’s Mental Health Programme Board (MHPB), which comes into force in April next year as part of a raft of NHS Reforms. We will work with the MHPB to ensure the provision of mental health services in the county meets everyone’s needs. 

Community Mental Health Transformation Members are also keen to support the work of the Mental Health Integrated Community Care Project (MHICC). This project recognises that primary and community mental health services can’t always meet everyone’s needs and so large scale ‘transformation’ of these services is necessary. So we have been discussing how the Voluntary Sector, and in particular our members, can contribute to the success of this ambitious programme of work. For more details go to dorsetccg.nhs.uk/cmh/  

If you want to join us, please contact Nick Rowe at  nick.rowe@dorsetmind.uk or fill out the form dcmha.uk/join/  on this site. 

Dorset Community Mental Health Alliance – Working together for Dorset’s wellbeing. 

 

News

HOW DOES COUNSELLING WORK?

At Relate Dorset and South Wiltshire, we are here to help. 

Whether you are having problems with a relationship or you’d just like to understand your partner/family/friends better, talking things through with one of our counsellors can make a real difference. 

The counselling we offer is for everyone.  Whether you’re married, single, young, old, living together or apart, straight or gay, we can help you strengthen your relationships and help with other issues such as anxiety or depression.  Counselling offers a caring, confidential and supportive environment in which you can examine problems and think about ways to address them.  

The first step is to arrange an initial appointment to discuss what the issues are that you need help with.  This gives you the chance to see if counselling is for you and us the chance to make sure we are the best people to help you.   

From there, if everyone agrees, ongoing appointments can be arranged with either the same counsellor or a new one who will be briefed on what was discussed at the initial appointment.  Once you start ongoing appointments with a counsellor, you will stay with that counsellor.  There is no set number of appointments you must have – that is up to you and your counsellor to agree as you go along – but six-eight sessions are common. 

Appointments last between 45 – 50 minutes and can take place either face-to-face, via webcam, or over the phone, depending on your circumstances and what works best for you.   

Our counsellors offer appointments on a range of days and times, so hopefully, there will be something that works for you.  

Our friendly team of administrators are the contact point outside of appointments and will take you through the process described above and book all the appointments, talking through availability and costs with you. 

For more information about Relate Dorset and South Wiltshire, visit  https://www.relate.org.uk/dorset-south-wiltshire  

News

A GENUINE DESIRE TO HELP

Wendy Thompson is Senior Practitioner at BCHA’s new Community Front Room (CFR) in Weymouth. In her blog, Wendy shares her passion for supporting people with their mental health issues and the positive strategies she uses.  

Community Front Rooms are a new service, which form part of Dorset HealthCare’s Access Mental Health initiative, which provides drop-in support to anyone over the age of 18 requiring support with their mental health. CFRs are open Thursday to Sunday, from 3.15 pm – 10.45 pm.  

“My role involves engaging with the customers who attend our sessions, as well as working closely with other agencies in the community, working together to help deliver the message that help is available and no referral is required – people can call us or just drop in (from Thursday 17 June 2021). 

“We have a team of peer specialists and mental health recovery workers, who are all kind and compassionate people, willing to go the extra mile to support people.  

“We recognise that while mental health illness can be complex, we are committed to normalising it in the same way that our physical health is regarded. We need to acknowledge and recognise that at times we may all require support and there is no shame in that.  

“Sometimes it can be difficult talking to those closest to us as we feel we are burdening them, so talking to someone neutral really helps. We are able to give people a safe space to visit and talk or just be in the company of others to engage in activities that can offer distraction and connection. 

“My favourite part of this role is having the autonomy to be creative in the delivery of the service and being able to make a difference in the lives of others.  

“Fundamentally, I can be myself and draw upon my own previous work and life experience to make a difference in my own local community.  

“I started my working life over 20 years ago as a very anxious single mum. But by being given the opportunity to volunteer at a local drug and alcohol agency I was able build my confidence and gain employment as a Substance Misuse Recovery worker and to work within the community and the criminal justice system.  

“More recently I moved over to working within mental health. If someone had told me years ago that I would be doing what I’m doing now I honestly would never have believed them. What I love about my job, is that now I can support people in the same way I was supported and share with people strategies that can support their wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem. 

“I have contact every day with customers and other agencies. Throughout the pandemic, we made use of virtual support through the attend anywhere provision.  

“COVID has been hard for us all in different ways, leaving us with feelings of isolation, as well as with financial issues, while juggling home working and childcare. We’ve had to work through relationship breakdowns and bereavement, so having the opportunity to talk is so valuable as otherwise we can just be left with our own thoughts, which can be a very lonely place to be.  

“Through a genuine desire to help, as well as the ability to listen with kindness and friendliness, I can help people see things from a different perspective and find a way forward. This may include referral to connect with activities within the local community and/or referral to more specialised support. 

“What excites me most about my job is connecting with a vast array of people in the community. I give people hope when they or their loved ones are struggling.  

“I am passionate about breaking down the stigma and shame surrounding mental health issues and helping people to understand that we all have mental health worries.  

“I hope to be able to promote a better understanding of what the symptoms are that people are struggling with and to ensure that they have a safe place to visit, whether it’s to request support for their own wellbeing or to seek advice about how to support a colleague, loved one or friend.” 

Further information about the Community Front Rooms is available on the Dorset HealthCare Access Mental Health website: https://www.dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk/access-mental-health  

News

IMPROVING LIVES IN DORSET

It has been great to be part of the Dorset Disability Equality Forum, and work alongside like-minded people who are committed to improving experiences for local people with disabilities, and those visiting the area.  

It’s really important to have opportunities to collaborate and develop solutions, as everyone has something to contribute – this has been very clear with the work alongside Dorset Council’s updated taxi policy, where both physical health and mental health considerations were identified. 

We’ve been working with the Forum to better support our patients, staff and local communities, inviting some of our staff networks and patient groups to information sessions to learn more about the Forum’s purpose and ambitions.  

With many links throughout the county and beyond, working with the Dorset Disability Equality Forum allows us to meet local people who may access our services, and empower our colleagues who can constructively contribute to the important topics discussed. 

Harry Coburn,   

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Practitioner, Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust