Welcome to Bipolar in Focus, I'm Jane Pauley.
Recent research has shown that one of the most important factors in successful treatment is family participation.
Dr. Meagan Poe from Bellevue Hospital in New York City is with us now and this idea of importance of family participation was not conventional wisdom a generation ago.
It is critical that families are involved in the care of treating their loved one. Families need to feel empowered rather than intimidated in this way. I think what often happens is families say,
"That's for the experts. This is not my domain. I don't know about bipolar. I don't understand it." When actually if they take the time to learn a little bit about the signs and symptoms.
What someone looks like when they first start to become manic or depressed and catch those signs and symptoms early, they can change their loved one's life.
Families need to understand the disease so they don't feel like the loved one is the enemy but the disease is.
That's very important. One thing that can happen when someone has bipolar is that they attack family members rather directly without meaning to do so.
So, family members can take it personally. For example, if somebody is manic they're very irritable and that irritability voices itself and manifests in every way.
The family can take that and think, "Why are they against me?" When actually it's the disease speaking, it's not the person.
So, if a family can have that perspective and understand this person needs help, they're not out to get me.
That reframes their whole understanding of what's going on and how to bring that person back into health.
So where does the education process begin?
I think it begins with simply understanding the signs and symptoms of bipolar
and really having a clear picture in your head of what that looks like, of what a person who's beginning to become manic looks like and conversely depressed.
That is where it starts. That creates a road map because families can catch things much earlier than a doctor would.
Well, think about it. The patient sees the doctor one hour a week maybe, family see them seven days a week and that's a world of information.
What kind of information does the family see that the doctor needs to know about?
Well, the families can pick up on all kinds of things because a person often will go into the office and want to present their best self and look much better than they're actually doing.
But the family sees those struggles.
Bipolar can be very isolating. How can an educated family help someone on the road to recovery?
Well, bipolar is a very alienating disease for both the individual that has it and the family. And so education helps bring families together.
They have a road map. They have an understanding of what's going on.
They have a common language that they can talk about now and it frames things less personally so that the family can step out of the moment and say how do we keep you well?
Because they're really a vital part of keeping people healthy.
Absolutely. Dr. Poe, thank you very much.
And thank you for watching Bipolar in Focus.