Way out for bipolar therapy
From Health cover specific plans to address episode and collaborative partners to help them,’’ Castle says. ‘‘ We are very excited about the program’s success. This is the first time that we are aware of in the world that we’ve been actually been able to reduce manic episodes and get people to reduce their signs of mania much sooner.’’
Bipolar is a very difficult disease to live with, for individuals and their families. Some experience depressive episodes that are much more than than just sadness, but lack of self-worth and self-esteem, poor concentration, lack of interest in anything.
‘‘ The other side is the manic pole and that’s characterised by elated mood, talking fast, they feel they have special abilities or powers, they might think they have lots of money so they’ll go on a spending spree.
‘‘ They may believe that they are very sexually attractive so it can lead to sexual indiscretion. It can be very destructive.’’
MBF general manager health product, Michael Carafillis, says the new program provides a much-needed bridge between the mental health services that treat people when they are acutely ill and the GPs and private psychiatrists who would provide ongoing care.
‘‘ Bipolar is a complicated disease involving periods of depression and mania, and its sufferers don’t alway take their medications when they should,’’ Carafillis says.
‘‘ People with the condition straddle the divide between public and private systems resulting in poor continuity of care for many sufferers.
‘‘ They tend to gain access to the public system in the most severely disabling phase of their illness, typically mania, and are often too ill and the disorder too complex to be easily managed in primary care.’’
Howell says the program has changed her life. ‘‘ I can’t believe how helpful the program was. It helped me to understand the role of medication, but also how responsible I am for how I feel. It provided practical advice and incredible support.’’
‘‘ They taught us to monitor our thoughts because your thoughts influence your actions. That was crucial for me to learn to watch what I think.
‘‘ Before I was diagnosed, I used to stay up later and later, to two or three in the morning to try and lose myself in movies so I couldn’t think. I can’t speak highly enough of it. I’m a different person.’’
Carolynne Holdsworth, an occupational therapist and research clinician at the Mental Health Research Institute, says the treatment will change the way health-care professionals treat bipolar disorder.
‘‘ In the 1990s the idea began to emerge that rather than being just a biological illness, other factors, including the social environment, contributed to a person’s bipolar. This program put those ideas into practice.’’
Holdsworth has trained 28 clinicians including occupational therapists, psychologists, psychiatrist and social workers to conduct the treatment, and hopes it will be rolled out nationally.
‘‘ At the moment it’s only offered Victoria but we’re also training staff Rockhampton and in South Australia.’’
People with bipolar disorder typically have to endure almost 13 years of manicdepressive mood swings before being correctly diagnosed.
A report from Melbourne researchers last year also found that during that time, 55 per cent of those with the condition will be misdiagnosed and given the wrong medication or treatment.
The study, which tracked 240 people with bipolar disorder, has found many doctors confuse the condition with other mental illnesses.
‘‘ It’s usually misdiagnosed as a personality disorder or depression,’’ said lead researcher Jayashri Kulkarni, director of the Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre in Melbourne.
Castle says 80 patients are now on waiting lists in Victoria to undergo the treatment.
‘‘ We didn’t want this to just be a research project. We know it can prevent nasty relapses and hospitalisations.’’
A combination of the right medication and the therapy helped Howell to the point where her GP says she will no longer require medication.
‘‘ My doctor says that if I keep going the way I am, she won’t need to see me for another six months.
‘‘ My friends can’t believe how I’ve changed. And my husband and I can now communicate because I’m not always snapping his head off. I’m just so grateful that I’m finally happy.’’ in in