Page last updated at 07:01 GMT, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

770,000 education programme for Welsh bipolar patients

Man sitting on a bed
The programme is aimed at encouraging a better understanding of treatment

A new project aimed at helping patients with bipolar disorders, and their families, is being rolled out across Wales.

The bipolar education programme hopes to offer 200 people a year the chance to take part in the 10-week sessions.

The courses, which are the brainchild of Cardiff University's mood disorders team, aim to help people understand and cope with manic depression.

The five year scheme has been funded by £770,000 from the Big Lottery Fund.

Bipolar disorder, often referred to as manic depression, is a complex condition sometimes described as a person's 'mood thermostat' malfunctioning.

It can lead to bouts of severe depression and other periods of intense 'highs', where judgement can be severely impaired.

However, the Wales education programme hopes it can help those with the condition better understand how it affects them, their families and the wider community.

People with mental health problems are some of the most disadvantaged people in society
Barbara Wilding
Big Lottery Fund Wales

Dr Ian Jones, from Cardiff University's School of Medicine, said it would help people with the disorder improve awareness of their condition.

He said it would also help them "have a better understanding of their treatment, provide the skills necessary to detect early signs of relapse and, most importantly, enable them to make informed decisions about their treatment".

Dr Jones, the programme's coordinator, added: "The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has highlighted the need for treatment for bipolar disorder to be combined with other interventions such as psycho-education in order to gain maximum effect.

"The launch of the bipolar education programme Cymru helps us meet this recommendation."

An initial pilot programme has already been held in Cardiff, and further sessions are due to get under way in the Welsh capital in the near future.

Barriers

The whole project will then be rolled out across Wales, with the support of local community mental health teams.

The former chief constable of South Wales Police, Barbara Wilding has welcomed the launch, in her role as the chair of the Big Lottery Fund Wales mental health matters committee.

"One in four of us will experience mental health problems at some point during our lives so it is important to recognise the issue," she said.

"People with mental health problems are some of the most disadvantaged people in society. Many are isolated and have low self-esteem and low aspirations.

"Their condition is made worse by the stigma, lack of understanding and discrimination they face daily."

She said the project would have a "significant impact" on the lives of people with mental health problems in Wales.

In addition to the main programme, single sessions will be run for families and carers of individuals attending the programme.

Over the lifetime of the programme, it is hoped that some 1,000 will benefit directly from the sessions.



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