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Encouraging a Loved One to Get Help

When to Bring It Up

It’s important to find the right place and right time. Don’t bring it up when either of you are angry or emotional. Try to be as calm as possible. You should both feel safe and comfortable. Choose a place where the person you are speaking to doesn’t feel threatened or caught off guard.

It Might Take a Few Tries

This can be difficult for them to hear, especially if they are very young or hadn’t noticed anything themselves. They could potentially respond with anger. You might need to revisit the topic again at a later time.

They May Be Hoping You Will Bring It Up

On the other hand, they may have been thinking about this already and don’t know how to ask for your help. They might be hoping that you will bring it up.

When I was eleven and first experiencing serious depression it was my greatest wish that someone would notice and bring up/offer any kind of help. I was too embarrassed at what I saw as weakness to ask myself. – Marta Edmisten, living with Bipolar I

Tips on How to Talk to Them
  • Start your sentences with “I” instead of “You” to avoid sounding like you are attacking or blaming them
  • Use a calm, loving tone
  • Print out materials about bipolar symptoms to read together, or leave for them to read with a supportive note
  • Refer them to information about bipolar online such as www.ibpf.org/learn or www.beatingblues.com
  • Suggest going to a support group or therapy with them

“If you choose to reach out and help someone that you believe has bipolar, please assure them that they are in good company, that they can get better, and that you will be there to help them find their way back to a better life.” – Patricia P., writer, speaker, stay-at-home grandma, living with Bipolar II

Suggestions for What to Say
  • "I’ve noticed that you seem to be feeling really rotten (or really struggling) lately. I really want you to feel better. I hope you know how much I love you and that I’d do anything to help you. I’ve learned (or heard, or have a friend with) about an illness called bipolar disorder. It make people’s brains not always produce enough of the right chemicals. Just like [choose an illness that the person knows about-especially if they know someone with said illness], it’s nobody’s fault, it just happens. The good news is that it can be successfully treated/managed with a Dr.’s help. A lot of really awesome people get treatment for bipolar disorder and have great lives like [choose examples of famous/accomplished people that the person would admire]. It seems to me like you have a lot of the symptoms I’ve read about. Do you want to see some information? [Here one could show an abbreviated, not scary, list of the symptoms that would match those particularly affecting the person] Do any of the symptoms seem like ones you’re having? Would you like to see a doctor and find out if it could explain how you’re feeling? I’d be happy to go with you. If you want to think about it for a while that’s fine, I’ll be here for you no matter what.” – Marta Edmisten, living with Bipolar I
  • “I can see that you are hurting.  I want you to feel better.  I have found out what may be troubling you.  I think that a new treatment plan will make you feel better.  I want you to know I believe in you and that you will be better.  I have this information I would like to share with you.” - Susan Schlesinger, JD , living in Ecuador with Bipolar II (rapid cycling)
  • "I have something I'd like to talk with you about, and it's only because I care about you. You are a very important person in my life. I know you well, and I am wondering if you might have bipolar disorder. Have you ever thought that or noticed any signs? How do you feel? Would you consider talking to someone, even with me if that makes it easier/better?" – Lyndsay Marvin, 27, living with bipolar disorder

 

 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.