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How do I get my roommate with Bipolar Disorder to get help?

answered 04:45 PM EST, Wed April 04, 2012
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anonymous anonymous
My roommate is manic depressive. She takes some medications for it to keep her stabilized and in the year we’ve been together she has always been very stable. I never would have known that she had a mental illness unless she had told me about her history of having her first manic episode in college and then having a depression after that caused her to need to quit school and move back home with her parents for 3 years while she got herself sorted out again.

I have seen some things over the last couple of weeks that are worrying me. I am not an expert on mania but from what I can gather the change in the way she is acting seems to closely match the symptoms of the manic phase. She never seems to sleep anymore and she is very excited about things and making these elaborate plans to do a lot of things which sound kind of crazy to me. She talks like a mile a minute and it’s hard to follow what she is saying sometimes. I have asked her if she is OK but she says she is great and that she is still taking her medication and that there is nothing for me to worry about.

I am not sure what to do. It seems clear to me that she is not fine but I do not know what to do to get her to seek some help. She seems to want to deny that anything is different. We live in Denver. Is there someone like a mental health organization I should call to get her some help? I like her but we are not close and I do not know much about her family or how to contact them. She is becoming a difficult roommate to live with but mostly I am just concerned about her and don’t want to see her fall into a serious depression. How can I help her?

Art Matthews Says...

To be truthful, there is very little you can do to "get her" to seek some help short of placing boundaries and limitations on inappropriate behavior and making logical consequences happen when they need to. Unless someone is a threat to themselves or someone else or their behavior is so disorganized as to be a potential harm, it is difficult to get a person to treatment who does not voluntarily seek help out. Difficult but not impossible. Whenever possible, I suggest people find someone the person is connected to that they trust and has some responsibility in their lives like a spouse, family member or even doctor, clergy or counselor. Or get someone with more expertise involved like a local mental health center for a wellness check. You might have to go through the police to get that done.

Refusing to get help is a major issue for people living with true Bipolar Disorder as the manic phase involves feeling boundless energy and euphoric highs. Trouble is, those won't last long and the person's behavior and decision making can be so impaired that they create lots of problems for themselves. The depressive stage is actually somewhat more manageable because the person doesn't have such energy and the delusional thinking is often more controllable.

Most major metropolitan areas have crisis lines and mental health services that can possibly send services to the person in question for an evaluation and assessment. I would check with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) of Denver (DBSA) at (720) 223-5558 or email dbsa_denver@q.com Or you can also dowload a document called SUPPORT SERVICES FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH MENTAL ILLNESSES AND THEIR FAMILIES in Denver at the following address: http://dcj.state.co.us/crcpi/NAMI%20Support%20Directory.doc

Best to you and your roommate. It's never a simple process to get someone like this to help and it often puts relationships in jeopardy; but I often tell my students "It's better to have a pissed off friend than to have a dead friend."

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Page last updated Apr 04, 2012

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