Characterised by extreme mood swings; untreated it can be a devastating condition destroying families and friendships, preventing people from holding down jobs and increasing risk of suicide by twenty times. Unsurprisingly the survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (NHS Digital 2014) found “rates of bipolar are higher in people socially isolated through unemployment, economic inactivity, location or living alone.”
Bipolar UK is the only national charity dedicated to supporting people affected by bipolar. We aim to build connections between those affected locally by running a network of 100 peer support groups across England and between individuals by moderating an eCommunity with 700-800 weekly users. We also provide an email and telephone call back service run by volunteers and staff with bipolar so people can get one to one advice. All three settings provide a safe space for people with this isolating condition to discuss it, reduce stigma and support them to develop self-management strategies that reduce loneliness.
In August 2018 we surveyed our supporters to identify the specific needs of rural and urban communities. A total of 371 people responded, 26% of whom lived in rural communities.
We found that living in rural communities exacerbated isolation, with respondents more likely to have to travel further for mental health services and being more nervous about meeting new people. We also found 11% were experiencing intense loneliness.
To tackle this isolation, Bipolar UK currently runs 16 peer support group in rural communities. By working with Rural Services Partnership we hope to expand that number, and raise awareness of our other services that can be accessed easily from the home.
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