Free group support for bipolar disorder in the suburbs of Cape Town

Welcome to the bulletin board and document repository of the Cape Town Bipolar Support Group. This website is for the use of our members and anyone else interested in providing information or support to those living with Bipolar Mood Disorder and their supporters.

What is Bipolar Disorder? Bipolar Mood Disorder is a serious psychiatric disorder that causes cyclical changes in mood that interferes with day to day functioning. Changes in mood can be elevated (hypomanic) or abnormally highly elevated (manic) or depressed. Such changes in mood tend to alternate with episodes of hypomania including at least one of mania followed by bouts of depression as in classic Bipolar I or milder episodes (hypomania or normal mood) followed by bouts of depression as in classic Bipolar II. In severe cases the patient may display symptoms of psychosis which include loss of insight and / or losing track of reality.

Bipolar Mood Disorder affects about 3% of the population worldwide. There is a strong genetic component to the disorder however one or more traumatic environmental factors are often the trigger to the onset of the first episode and sometimes relapses. Such factors include physical or psychological abuse, acute or chronic stress, substance abuse and sudden lifestyle changes. Left untreated Bipolar Mood Disorder can wreck relationships, lead to devastating economic loss, self-destructive behavior and ultimately suicide. The good news however is that Bipolar Mood Disorder is manageable through the use of prescription drugs and psychotherapy (in or out of hospital), while participating in group support can help in dealing with symptoms and in preventing relapses.

About Us: We are a Cape Town based non-profit, peer support group of laypersons living with Bipolar Mood Disorder, either as individuals or as supporters of friends or family members with the disorder. Although we are not lead by medical professionals, we do believe in the importance of psychotropic medicine and psychotherapy provided by registered practitioners in their respective fields. We are united by the common belief that Bipolar Mood Disorder cannot be managed in isolation but requires the support of everyone involved, from family and friends to educators and pharmacists as well as colleagues and employers. Although there is no “cure” for Bipolar Mood Disorder, many of our members are living meaningful and productive lives. We provide support by supplying factual information and encouraging like-minded members to share their challenges and coping strategies with each other.

Meetings: There are no longer scheduled in person meetings. If you would like to organise an ad hoc meeting please contact David (details under the Contacts tab).

Boundaries: Like all successful partnerships, effective groups are mindful of boundaries. Because we are a group of laypersons, assuming the role of medical professionals such as doctors, psychologists and pharmacists, is inappropriate. We therefore cannot go about diagnosing, psychoanalysing or medicating one another based on our personal experience. What treatment regimen is appropriate for one person may not be for another. When clinicians do attend the group, they do so in their personal capacity. That does not mean that we don’t share information about what medication has worked for us personally, including the side effects we may have experienced. If we have had an unsuccessful relation with one of our health care providers, we do not advertise it because another patient may be working well with that professional and we do not want to discourage them from continuing their therapy. We try to stay clear of divisive issues such as politics, sport and organised religion for obvious reasons. However, we need to deal with spiritual experiences, especially those undergone during manic episodes with the upmost sensitivity to those who do not share our beliefs. Finally, although we encourage discussion of complementary treatments (when they are indeed complementary,) we strongly discourage people from advocating “quack” therapies that claim to “cure” the disorder or that require patients stop taking their prescribed medication in favour of “alternative remedies.”

Privacy: We are an open and transparent group however because some discussions that arise in our meetings often continue afterwards in various forums we should be careful not to compromise the privacy of those involved by naming or identifying them. In the case that someone has disclosed something in confidence; please respect them and wait for the next meeting to discuss the matter further, if needs be.

The Telegram Group: We have an online chat group on the Telegram platform which is supported by most smartphones and computers. Anyone wishing to join the chat group can find the link on our contacts page. Please do not pass on this link to any other member of the general public who is not a member of our group. Anyone wishing to join the chat group MUST read the guidelines under the resources tab. This will ensure that our interaction will proceed smoothly, with the minimum disruption. We hope you enjoy the experience.

Donations: Our group’s expenses are modest: sending out SMS reminders, maintaining the website and restocking the library - only the latter is fairly pricey. If each member contributes just R30 a meeting we shall be able to cover most of our costs.

A peer lead, non-profit, support group for people with bipolar disorder and their supporters

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