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This programme saved my life

Bipolar Education Programme Cymru (BEPC) is an award-winning 10 week course that aims to help people with bipolar disorder improve their quality of life through a better understanding of their condition. Supported by the Big Lottery Fund, the course has already benefitted thousands of people. One of them is Julie Murray. This is her story (trigger warning):

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 13 years ago but was ill for many years prior to this. I am on medication for my bipolar, but my mood can still fluctuate and I can become very unwell. Consequently, over the years I have spent time in the hospital and under the care of the crisis team.

I have also overdosed on several occasions and self-harmed. The manic episodes can be equally as devastating as I have gotten into very dangerous situations and the aftermath can be terrible.

Three years ago my psychiatrist sent me a letter about the BEPC course and I was eager to do it as, even when well I constantly worried that I was going to become unwell again.

The day I started the programme I became very nervous but the facilitators put the group at ease. I found it amazing to meet people with the same diagnosis from different walks of life, different cultures and ages all struggling to cope with the devastating illness.

During the course, I learned about ‘what bipolar disorder is’. It may sound clichéd, but it is true that knowledge is power and thus I became more aware of the illness and more confident at being able to deal with it.

I learned about managing my lifestyle, relapse prevention and early intervention (which is hugely important in managing extreme moods and their horrible consequences) through being aware of triggers and early warning signs.

The programme provided each participant with a manual that we completed throughout the course, so it became tailored to each individual’s needs. I now share the manual with my community psychiatric nurse (CPN) and it forms the basis of my care plan. I call it my Bible.

This programme changed my life and I am almost certain that it has saved my life. I have gone from coping to managing my Bipolar Disorder.

I generally avoid alcohol and limit my caffeine intake. I monitor my sleep which can all impact on my mood and see my CPN on a regular basis. I now do regular voluntary work including mentoring other people with Bipolar Disorder. I have gone from existing to living.

I am eternally grateful to the creators and providers of this programme who work tirelessly and ceaselessly to help people like myself live and lead fuller lives.”

Julie Murray

Julie volunteers for Bipolar UK, where she mentors others with bipolar disorder. She is also an NCMH Research Champion.

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National Centre for Mental Health, Cardiff University, Hadyn Ellis Building, Maindy Road, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ

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