Having a friend with Bipolar Disorder can be tough, especially if you’re unsure how best to be there for them – despite that being the one thing you really want to do.

As someone with Bipolar Disorder myself, and having supported friends who have the same disorder, I have some guidance from experience on how to be there for your friends.

Do your research

A really good place to start is doing your research so that you can find out as much about the disorder as possible.

This can be from the internet, in books, from others with the disorder, from professionals or from your friend themselves. There are a lot of sources out there with wonderful information.

Doing your research will inform you about what your friend is going through and put you in a better position to understand them.

Let them know you are there for them

Letting your friend know that, no matter what, you are there for them is a wonderful step. Letting them know how important to you they are – how much they matter to you – is so helpful.

Making it clear that whatever they are going through, you truly want to offer your support can mean the world to your friend. You can do this however you feel comfortable, whether it be having an open and honest conversation to their face, sending an email, texting them, writing a letter – whatever works for you.

Be there to listen but don’t pressure

Be there to listen to your friend if they need to talk.

You don’t have to feel confident in giving them advice, but just being a listening ear if they need to voice how they are feeling can be fantastic support and really make a big difference.

With this, though, it’s important that you don’t pressure them to talk if they don’t feel like it. Sometimes they may not want to share things or may not find it helpful to talk.

Be there even when they don’t want to talk

When they are going through a mood change, they may not want to talk or even feel able to communicate, but you can still be there for them.

Just being with them, whether this be sitting next to them saying and doing absolutely nothing, watching a film and eating junk food, talking about your own life to distract them, or anything else – sometimes your presence will just be enough.

Knowing they are not alone can have a big positive impact.

Include them in invites even if they might say no

Due to the nature of the disorder, it can mean that your friend might not feel up to participating in social activities.

After a while, people will tend to stop inviting friends if they keep saying no, and this can be really isolating for someone with mental illness.

Make sure you keep inviting them (even if they say no) so they feel included and so that, if there comes a time they feel able to attend a social event, they have that option.

Ask them how you can help

If you are unsure about anything and don’t know how to help, the safest way to act is to simply ask your friend how you could help them, or if there is anything you can do.

Your friend will most likely appreciate even the act of you asking the question because it shows you care.

Ask them if they want to make a plan for the event of a crisis

If you feel comfortable with it, and you are very close to your friend, you can ask your friend if they would like to set out a plan for times in which they are in a crisis.

If they are ok with this, then they can discuss how they would like you to act if you feel they are a danger to themselves, such as people you might be able to call and what you might be able to do to keep them safe.

They may not feel comfortable doing this, so respect them if they say they don’t want to set out a plan.

Just be yourself

What is most important is to just be yourself.

The friendship you had before your friend was given a diagnosis is still the same – they are still the same person.

Remember to value this connection you have with them and be yourself –  the person that your friend knows and loves.

Article written by Ann-Marie D’Arcy-Sharpe