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10 Ways to Help Someone Who Has Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses are sometimes called "no casserole" diseases. Meaning that when someone is diagnosed with a physical health condition like cancer, people are quick to show their support by bringing casseroles and helping out in other ways. But this usually doesn't happen when someone is diagnosed with a mental illness. 

Maybe this is partly because people aren't sure what to do or how they can help. Well it's not that different than if they were suffering from a physical illness: be there for them, listen, and offer to help with things they need getting done. Bringing a casserole or meal would probably be appreciated as well. 

We asked our volunteers who live with bipolar disorder for more suggestions of things they have found helpful. Here's what they had to say.

1. Listen without judging or trying to fix the problem 

It can be hard to listen without offering advice, but sometimes being heard is more important than fixing the problem. If this concept is difficult to understand, read this article which explains it in more detail. 

2. Let them know you are available to talk when they need to 

It's comforting to know that you are there, even if the person doesn't feel like talking at the moment. 

3. Ask what they need help with 

Sometimes what seems like a simple task can be daunting and overwhelming. Offer to help with dishes or dinner to lighten their workload. Or maybe they need helping picking their kids up from school, ask to see what you can help with. 

4. Take them out for coffee, encourage them to do things together out of the house

Sometimes people with bipolar disorder, depression in particular, can isolate themselves. Try to find something they enjoy that you can do together, like getting a bite to eat, going to the movies, or going for a walk outside. 

5. Continue inviting them to do things together

Keep inviting them even if they decline your invitation. Social anxiety or other reasons might keep them from showing up, but they will appreciate being included. 

6. Understand when they need some space or alone time

Sometimes people need some time by themselves, and it doesn't mean they are mad at you. Try not to take it personally and respect their space. 

7. Offer to go to a support group with them

Especially if they have never been to a support group before, they might be nervous about going by themselves. It might be easier to go if they have a trusted friend with them. And even if they don't want you to go with them, they will likely appreciate that you offered. 

8. Reassure them that they are still fully valid participants of society

Let them know that their lives have meaning. The illness does not define them and should not limit them. 

9. Be supportive of their treatment plan

Even if it’s not the same treatment plan you would choose for yourself. 

10. Educate yourself about bipolar disorder

The more you learn, the better you will be able to understand and communicate about it. You are off to a good start by reading this article! Learn more on our website by reading our articles and blogs, or watching our webinar series. We also have a free book called Healthy Living with Bipolar Disorder available here


This article was written by our Advice and Support Community, a group of about 50 volunteers who contribute their advice based on their experience living with or caring for someone with bipolar disorder.

International Bipolar Foundation is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or received from the International Bipolar Foundation.


my thirteen year old friend might have bipolar. im the same age and he's really worried that being bipolar means that he might have to go to hospital. i dont know how to help him...

Hi Keren, you are doing the right thing by trying to help you friend. You should encourage him to talk about this with your school counselor, his doctor, his parents, or another adult that he trusts. There are different types of bipolar disorder and there is a range of how "bad" it is. It doesn't mean he will have to go to the hospital. But he might need to check in with a doctor more often.

It might help him to learn more about bipolar disorder so it doesn't seem as scary. Here are some things he can read: 

This one lists the symptoms of bipolar disorder, so he can see how many of them he has or does not have: 

And this is a blog written by someone who has bipolar disorder, with advice for people who are new to it:

If you have any more questions you can email Heather at

I have been diagnosed 4yrs ago after almost killing myself, I've been through a lot but I'm proud to say that I have done very well by aiming to be positive as hard as it is and I try getting myself out situations that affect me. Its not the easiest to manage and fail miserably at times but I try at least. Times are rough and I take it almost minute for minute and I dont hide it from anyone, I tell them what I deal with and wish most people would take some time to understand what I deal with better, I try and cope but its not easy. So far I'm doing well.

I have bipolar disorder. The people I love know it and are supportive for the most part. When I self isolate it is not because I don't love and care about you.

my brother has biopolar its difficult to understand him...where can i find a group around nelspruit so that he can share what he feels.


I'm 11 I think I have bipolar disorder. I give you my thanks for writing this it really made my day finding out that people understand how I feel. I've even thought about suicide or running away and sometimes out of nowhere I'll act like I just went on drugs. I can't focus in school and its hard to keep up in the advanced classes where I go to school. My parents don't know that I'm 99.9% sure that I have this the only ones who know are my best friends ( 2 people my crush and BFF). I wish I could show this to them, do you think I should?
Well thanks for listening to me rant about my life! :)

Alula well done for speaking up on here, you are very brave. Please consider talking to your mum or dad, they can help you get some help. I first realised I was different around the same age as you. If I had spoken up about it earlier, it really would have helped me in later life. Sending you much love and a hug. From a bi polar mum x

Wonderful website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any user
discussion forums that cover the same topics discussed here?
I'd really like to be a part of group where I can get feedback from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thank you!

Wonderful website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any user
discussion forums that cover the same topics discussed here?
I'd really like to be a part of group where I can get feedback from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thank you!

Wonderful website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any user
discussion forums that cover the same topics discussed here?
I'd really like to be a part of group where I can get feedback from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thank you!

My 16 yo was diagnosed about a 1 1/2 years ago after major suicide attempt. She has done so well with therapy, I'm so proud of how far she's come! Unfortunately myself, my 15 yo old and her stepfather are exhausted and and relations hAve become strained. As mom Im in the middle of all three of them! It seems as everyday she does something to upset the others. They feel she does it on purpose. .I can't figure out what is mental illness and what is manipulation. The school is always sending her home, she takes things from us and then lies but shows no empathy of how upset we are about it but says she loves us and would never hurt us. I'm so torn between everyone I'm trying to educate the other 2 and trying to make her responsible for actions, but everyone is exhausted. If someone could direct me, I would so appreciate it! A little background my late husband their dad shot himself after 25 years of marriage( I never saw it coming), so it's been almost 5 years now both girls have been diagnosed with anxiety/panic disorder, depression, ptsd, and my one with bipolar. I haven't even grieved yet because just trying to keep them healthy. They have been in therapy since his death. I'm so tired but refuse to give up plus I work 3 15 hour days so I can get everyone to appts. On days off. Please any direction would be great! Sorry so long!

I don't know what to

I'm 17 y.o and my girlfriend is the same age.Shes bipolar and she says she has a lot of depressed days.She asked me for a break.I thought it would help her so I agreed But she says there are some voices in her head that's asking her to do things like killing herself.Its getting hard for me to control that and it's worrying her.Is there any way that these "voices" can be stopped.I don't want her to suffer and she is going through a lot now

We are sorry to hear about what you're going through and we are concerned about you. If you or your partner are in crisis, please call the Crisis Hotline or Text Line which you can access by calling 1-800-273-8255 or texting START to 741-741 as we are not a crisis center. If you are not in crisis and want to talk to someone online, we recommend the website It's a free, anonymous chat with a trained listener. 

This webinar provides a step by step guide to convince a loved one to get counseling: 

My daughter has periods of high productivity DIY projects and then boughts of anger when she is yelling at her kids and husband for not doing enough to help. Her husband loves her, works long days as a laborer and is a devoted dad. Nothing he does is good enough. Might she have bipolar? How can we get her to see that her anger is driving her family away. She says she wants a divorce which will only compound her feelings of isolation. How do we approach her with our concern?

Hello I'm 19 years old and my partner is the same and he wants a break as he is feeling unhappy with everything right now. I agreed to this but he wants to get through it alone and he doesn't want me to help. I have done an assessment on his behalf and it says he has bipolar, how do you be there as help but not in the way without contact?

My friend is 13 years old she have depression and bipolar how can i help her? She doesn't listen to anyone just her cousine and she don't want to talk with her cousine and i want to help here plss what should i do?

My aunt is 53 years old, I guess she is suffering from bipolar depression.Lately we are shocked with her behavior. She is not open for communication. As we visited to her house, she looks so thin because she refused to eat even to drink water. We do not know how to help her recover and become normal again.

Hi Neng, we can imagine how tough this must be for you. We are deeply concerned about your loved one and we want you to know that help is available to get you through this. If you or your loved one are in a crisis, please call this number which is a crisis line with listeners trained to help you: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), as we are not a crisis center. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741-741. For a list of international crisis centers visit this page:


If you are not in a crisis and would like someone to talk to online, we recommend the It’s a free, anonymous online chat with a trained listener.


Making the decision to get help is difficult for many people and it may take some time. You are doing the right thing by learning more about how to help her. This article has advice on how to approach the topic and suggestions for what to say:

We also have a recorded lecture that goes into this topic in greater detail:

Another option to try is attending a support group for caregivers. It’s comforting to talk with others who are in a similar situation and you can learn a lot by asking them questions and seeing what has or hasn’t worked for them. Let us know if you would like help finding a support group in your area.


We hope this information is helpful to you, let us know if you have any other questions.

My girlfriend has bipolar disorder and has recently been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She is 18. I want to know some ways I can help her when it gets really bad. I'm currently reading into these disorders and I have tried everything listed but I don't think it's helping..

I've had bipolar disorder for 19 years or so, I'm so grateful when my mom invites me to go out to get coffee or to do something! Very grateful!! Good advice, and when I meet my soulmate, I'm going to do the same thing for him, because he has bipolar as well, very grateful we can relate, and greatful to have a mom, that does this, thank you!!

Thank you, This article was very helpful! I have been I a 5 year relationship with a man that was diagnosed with bipolar depression disorder! All the mood swings and other things all this time and I had no understanding until now! I never looked into it like I am now! He is the one that told me I don't understand and to research it! And Oh my!!!! I'm so hurt I've misunderstood him all these years!

I know this post is old. But I'm in the same situation. My boyfriend of 5 years has t been diagnosed. But it is very clear that he has bipolar. He's in a manic state, and he's not communicating at all with me. He hasn't been home in a month and I am just so devestated. He was seen on a date with another woman.this is so not his normal behavior, we have always been faithful. I guess what I am looking for is a support group that I can find others with the same issues on what's going on within their relationships with a spouse with bipolar disorder. I don't know if he will reach out to me. This is THE second time has cycled in our relationship. It was miserable last time, but be diddnt ever cheat. That on lasted 6 months any words of wisdom out there?

I know a delightful lady in approaching 80 and she has bipolar. My work colleague keeps saying, that is the past we must focus on the future'. I am not sure that is appropriate as it sort of negates her life, can you give me some more positive things to say. At the moment all I do is listen to her but don't offer advice as I am not qualified to do so. Some encouraging words for me to continue to say to her would be of enormous help for me.
Thank you.

Hello.. I have a friend and he's 18..i think he is Bipolar.. We'd be texting one moment and the next, he gets all moody and angry and says he doesn't want to talk to me.. He said he used to hear voices but I'm not sure if he still does.. He would call me names and then apologize. He keeps trying to push me away because of his trust issues.. Please help me.. How do I fix him? , how do I help him?..

What about the abuse the loved one is subjected to and allowing the behavior to continue. How does one deal with being sympathetic yet be able to set boundaries and limits to where the one will learn not to cross? Insults and verbal abuse should not be used against the receiving party

I'm trying to help out a friend out of this same issue I love her so much but she is feeling so depressed and rejected she wishes to kill herself and I know this article will guide me to help her out
Thank you so much

My boyfriend and I have been together for about 7 months. I knew he had bipolar when I first met him but I sort of disregarded it. Now I feel very ashamed because he has now lost his job and is in the self loathing stage. I'm trying to better understand because I dont want our relationship to fall apart. How do I cope, but also help him?

I have this friend. She always fel like she doesnt fit in and she always talks about suicide or ending her life and as far as i know shes depressed always and she doesnt know why she says everything just feels empty inside i dont know how to help her. Everytime i try to listen to her its all about death, suicide, not wanted.. She is a type of person who hates being around with other people. What should i do?

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