How can friends and family help?
This section is for friends and family who want to support someone they know with hypomania or mania.
Start a conversation
Have an honest conversation about your friend or family member’s hypomania or mania and how it affects them. Ask them questions about their experiences and listen to what they have to say. By talking openly, you can improve your understanding of what things are like for the other person. This will also build trust so that your friend or family member feels more comfortable talking about their experiences in future and to ask for help if they need it.
“What feels real is real for him in that moment. It helps when I respect that and comfort him rather than trying to explain it’s not ‘real’ for everyone else.”
Ask what you can do
If someone has experienced hypomania or mania before, they will often have an idea of what helps them and what doesn’t. Ask how you can help. If they don’t know, you could offer to help by exploring options together.
Offer to help with self-management
It might be helpful to work with your friend or family member to help them identify their triggers and warning signs, and to put together a self-management plan to help them manage their symptoms better. Ask questions, make suggestions and remember that you may have different ideas about what is and isn’t a problem. Once you have a final plan, write it down so you can both look at it if your friend or family member becomes unwell.
“Looking out for patterns, talking, remaining calm and supportive is essential.”
Try not to make assumptions
It’s understandable to be worried about potential signs of hypomania and mania, but it’s important not to question every time your friend or family member is in a good mood. It’s completely normal for everyone to have ups and downs, and they might find it frustrating if someone starts to worry every time they have a good day. It might help to look for consistent signs and patterns that they are becoming unwell, and to talk together about what this might look like.
Let them know you’re worried
If you’re worried that your friend or family member is becoming unwell, try to address this with them gently. Don’t criticise or accuse, and stay calm and non-confrontational. Explain that you’ve noticed changes in their behaviour and why it concerns you, and ask if they’ve noticed it too. If this has happened before, gently remind them of this and explain the pattern you see. If they say they’re fine, you could suggest that you see how things go and review the situation in a few days.
Discuss challenging behaviour
If someone is very unwell, they may behave in a difficult or challenging way and may not see their behaviour as a problem. If this happens, it’s OK for you to set boundaries – for example, that you will end the conversation if someone is rude or aggressive with you, or that you won’t participate in any grand ideas or schemes if you feel they will have negative consequences. Explain this calmly to your friend or family member, and try not to get into an argument.
Be supportive afterwards
If someone has been unwell, they may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their behaviour. Reassure them that you still care and that you understand this behaviour is part of their hypomania or mania. If your friend or family member is worried that their behaviour may have long-term effects, you could offer to help them resolve this – such as helping with a financial plan or working out how to improve relationships that have been affected.
“If those around me are concerned about whether changes are symptomatic of relapse [I encourage them] to ask, not assume.”
Be an advocate
Getting the right care and support can be difficult and frustrating, particularly if you are unwell, so your friend or family member may want you to help with this. For example, you could offer to research treatments or self-help techniques, find information about support groups in your area, or look into finding a mental health advocate.
Plan for a crisis
It’s a good idea to make a crisis plan that explains what to do if someone becomes very unwell. This would include who to contact, what to do and when would be an appropriate time to consider hospital treatment. Agree this in advance, and keep a written copy.
Look after yourself
It can sometimes be really challenging to support someone, and it’s common to feel overwhelmed at times. It’s important to remember to look after your own mental health too, so you have the energy, time and distance you need to be able to help your friend or family member.
- Set boundaries and don’t take too much on. If you become unwell yourself you won’t be able to offer as much support. It is also important to decide what your limits are and how much you are able to help them. See our pages on how to manage stress for more information.
- Share your caring role with others, if you can. It’s often easier to support someone if you’re not doing it alone.
- Talk to others about how you’re feeling. You may want to be careful about how much information you share about the person you’re supporting, but talking about your own feelings with someone you trust can help you feel supported too.
See our pages on how to cope when supporting someone else for more suggestions on what you can do, and where you can go for support.