by LaShawna Griffith
There is a link between bipolar disorder and suicide, according to one psychologist in the island.
So says Dr Jennifer Deane Ford, a clinical psychologist as well as a temporary lecturer in Psychology and Education at the University of The West Indies Cave Hill Campus.
“Yes, definitely, based on the symptoms that bipolar disorder manifests, depression being listed as one,” she said, adding there needed to be more education on mental health issues in the Caribbean.
“ A lot of these issues can be managed with therapy and medication and I am biased to therapy as a psychologist. But because we are not aware of the seriousness of the issue it is not being managed as it should. Generally, there must be more research done on bipolar disorder in the Caribbean and how it relates to us that are East Indian, Africans, and it has to be multinational research and someone needs to do research.
“I would not figure the government as such, maybe [University of The West Indies] needs to take the mantle. But yes, there needs to be more research, more mental education awareness. So people can understand how to help their loved ones who may have this condition,” Ford said, adding that she believed that if there was not a bipolar association in Barbados that one should be formed by families of persons who have the mental disease.
The trained psychologist said family support was critical for bipolar patients, and it was also vital that patients took their medication daily.
“Definitely, the family makes everything because persons with bipolar can function normally within particular environments and they do. But it is only when they are off their medication and they are not getting through with what they want to do that they snap and that is where the danger is,” she said, adding that in her practice she ensured that all of her bipolar patients were taking their medication accurately.
“As a psychologist for a bipolar person, I have to make sure that the psychiatrist that they are dealing with is also managing their medication. I too will also encourage the persons to stay on their meds and my job is to help them from being on the cloud nine that they always want to be on. When persons come to me it is because their psychologist determines that there are stable on their medication and I just have to do the motivating, the self-esteem, their image, that kind of therapy,” Ford said, adding that it was crucial bipolar patients have a family member or caregiver who ensured they took their medication every day.
“What we see with bipolar persons is that when they feel better ‘almost normal’, they fidget with their medication and begin to take less medication and then things start to go. It is important that they have a psychiatrist dealing with them for the proper dosage of medication,” she said, noting that if bipolar patients were not taking their medication it was then they would feel depressed and likely to commit suicide.
“If you are in fact bipolar you have to be medicated and if you take the correct dosage of medication you have to ‘function’ normally. But once you start to fidget with the medication you get the highs and the low depression and that is what would lead you to suicide,” Ford said.
Ford’s comments come in the wake of recent instances of suicide in the island where some of the victims were previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder.