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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Bipolar help group 'must be saved', says Cumbrian woman

A woman who attempted suicide two years ago has spoken of why a support group gripped by a funding crisis must be saved.

Hazel Hindle photo
Hazel Hindle

Hazel Hindle has spoken about living with bipolar condition and the work of Bipolar UK, a self-help group of which she is branch leader in Carlisle, as the charity warned cash pressures threaten its future.

The 44-year-old, from Penrith, was diagnosed with the mental health illness about nine years ago, but says she has been living with it all her adult life.

Bipolar causes severe mood swings, from manic highs often involving hospitalisation and sectioning to suicidal lows.

The illness increases the risk of suicide by up to 20 times. Mrs Hindle said: “I had my own chiropodist business for six years and was very successful.

“For the year-and-a-half before I had major breakdown, I was just treading water. It was exhausting to be professional and keep the ‘face’ on. I couldn’t tell people I had bipolar: I felt it was misunderstood and people would judge me and avoid me.”

Mrs Hindle admitted she has had three breakdowns, the most serious two years ago when she attempted to take her own life.

Since getting involved with Bipolar UK last year, she has learned so much more about the illness and how to manage it.

“I nearly succeeded in my last bad attempt at suicide, but if I’d linked into Bipolar UK I’d have more than likely read the warning signs far, far sooner and got intervention before I reached that point,” Mrs Hindle said.

“The charity is there 24/7 to ring up. There are people that understand and if you’re having a crisis they are there for you.

“You can also go on a forum and say things that you know your nearest and dearest wouldn’t understand.”

The forum itself is open to all those living with bipolar – including family and friends – but is monitored by the charity to pick up on warning signs of a “crisis” and potential suicide risk.

“That is incredible,” Mrs Hindle added. “That will and does save lives.”

The Bipolar UK self-help group is open to people from across north Cumbria, and meets at the People First Cumbria, Best Life building, on Botchergate, Carlisle, on the third Monday of every month.

Running from 7pm until 9pm, it is open to people who have bipolar, their friends and family or anyone wanting information or support.

Mrs Hindle and colleagues have worked to expand the group behind a “chat” session, and plans for 2013 include talks about the benefits available, a meeting with a pharmacist to speak about the types of medication on offer and even potential days out.

“We have parents who come because they have a new diagnosis for a teenager, or a mother and daughter who want to find ways of empowering the daughter so she doesn’t have to rely on mum,” she continued.

“For me, I find it difficult going into a restaurant, but to go with the group and with people who understand makes all the difference.

“Sometimes numbers are very low, other times they are really high. It depends on the stage of people’s illness.”

Bipolar UK pays for the rent of the building for the group and for postal costs, but all other events are funded by events in Carlisle and the surrounding area.

Nationally the charity helps support 65,000 people a year, but has warned its donations have plummeted with the economic downturn – at a time when there has been a rise in people diagnosed.

Suzanne Hudson, Bipolar UK’s chief executive, said: “We desperately need to raise funds to enable us to meet the substantial increase in demand we are witnessing.

“The sad irony is that this funding crisis comes at a time when bipolar is beginning to be understood.”

Mrs Hindle added: “I know that thanks to Bipolar UK I won’t get to that stage [of suicide] again, because the charity has helped educate me and my family about what to look out for.”

Bipolar UK desperately needs to raise more than £100,000 in the next few weeks to continue providing vital services, including the Carlisle self help group.

To make a donation call Bipolar UK on 020 7931 6480, visit www.bipolaruk.org.uk or text BIPO33 £3 to 70070.

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