A new information website for the caregivers of people with bipolar disorder has been launched by researchers at Orygen Youth Health and the University of Melbourne. They gathered all the relevant information with the help of an international consortium of 143 carers, consumers and clinicians with experience in dealing with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder affects about two in 100 adults and onset is often in adolescence with peak onset in early to mid twenties. Good treatment and illness self-managements strategies help many people to keep well. However, despite pharmacological treatment, one study found that relapse rates are as high as 37 per cent in the first year, 60 per cent over two years and 73 per cent over five years.
Website developer Lesley Berk of the University of Melbourne and Orygen Youth Health said that while patterns of illness vary, extreme bipolar mood swings and mild symptoms between episodes can affect the person's daily life and that of their loved ones.
"Family members, partners and friends are often a primary source of support for people with bipolar disorder," she said.
"For some caregivers the impact of care-giving can result in high levels of stress, depression and other health problems." In a previous study, 93 per cent of carers reported feeling distressed and experienced distruption to their lives when their loved one was ill or had a bipolar episode, and for 54 per cent of the carers, this distress was severe.
Ms Berk said there is very little caregiver specific information for this group. "The website www.bipolarcaregivers.org includes information on bipolar disorder, ways to treat and manage it, suggestions for ways caregivers can provide support and take care of themselves as well as helpful resources," she said.