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.
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 to listen – 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.
Try not to make assumptions
Try 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 it can be very frustrating if someone starts to worry every time you have a good day. Instead, look for consistent signs and patterns that they are becoming unwell. It can help to agree what this would look like with the person beforehand, so you both agree when you think their symptoms are becoming a problem.
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. If this has happened before, gently explain the pattern you see and why it makes you worried. If your friend or family member says they're fine, 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 condition and isn't their fault. 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.
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 (see our pages on Advocacy for more information).
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
You may feel very worried about your friend or family member, but it’s also important to invest some time and energy into looking after yourself. Making sure that you stay well will enable you to continue to offer them support. You can find out more about looking after yourself on our pages How to cope as a carer and Improving and maintaining your wellbeing. You can also visit the Carers UK website.
This information was published in August 2016. We will revise it in 2019.