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Walking the Tightrope – Caring for Someone with Depression or Bipolar Disorder

Did you know that one in five Australians will personally experience clinical depression or a bipolar disorder over their lifetime, there are the families, partners, friends and work colleagues who are also drawn into the crisis. Often, it is these people on the perimeter that selflessly reach out to assist those who are living with a mood disorder, offering their time, their acceptance, support and hope.

In searching for strategies to deal with mood disorders, the latest Black Dog Institute Writing Competition throws the spotlight on the powerful stories that come from carers, with a particular focus on the questions of what worked best, what didn’t work and what you learnt.

“While depression can be very isolating, individuals fighting this private battle are often surrounded by those who love them, with friends, family and colleagues all looking for practical and sensitive ways to show their support,” said Professor Gordon Parker, Executive Director of the Black Dog Institute. “The theme of the 2011/12 writing competition is Walking the Tightrope – Caring for Someone with Depression or Bipolar Disorder. I feel this will resonate with carers who are often the unsung heroes in helping people with mood disorders while at the same time exposing themselves to an increased risk of them facing a similar fate.”

Over the past eight years the writing competition has focused on a wide range of topics including adolescents, the elderly, postnatal depression and tackling mood disorders in the workplace, as well as mastering depression and bipolar disorder; resulting in the publication of five (soon to be six) books by distinguished publishing companies.

Above is a message from the director of the Black Dog Institute. It includes an announcement about a writing competition. This wonderful Institute helped us protect our beautiful child from harm during her struggle with Bipolar Illness. So many young—and not so young—people have died, or been seriously damaged, as a result of this illness. As a carer, I feel proud that we managed her illness, from 2003 onwards—and saw her emerge like a butterfly unscathed from this terribly difficult (at least in its worst phase) chemical imbalance foisted on her by genetic inheritance. Now that she has beaten this illness, she has emerged even stronger than before. The “Wellness Plan” for Bipolar people states that they should follow a healthy lifestyle, with plenty of sleep and healthy eating and drinking habits, moderate alcohol consumption and no smoking. This, as well as taking the prescribed medication, will ensure that recovery goes on improving year by year.

Our child is one of the lucky ones, with two parents supporting her through all the bad times, and continuing to do so now and into the future. Some of the not-so-lucky ones have succumbed to death through suicide or accidental misadventure during the depressive stages of the illness. This is especially on the cards when the illness goes undiagnosed or if they remain unmedicated for a long period of time.

The reason I have chosen to write about our personal story is because I believe more people need to be educated about mental illness, and especially about how it can be treated. While the stigma continues to exist against emotional disorders, people will continue to suffer and not seek out appropriate help in time. So much ignorance surrounds the subject of mental illness in our society, which is why I’ve chosen to be a voice, no matter how small, crying out against the tendency in our society to avoid this subject.

Furthermore, being honest and seeking the truth is not only important to a person’s’ spiritual health, but has recently been shown to be a contributing factor in maintaining physical health as well. See this article on this topic in Time Magazine.