Clinical experts in bipolar have today announced that successive failings in government policy could have led to a significant reduction in quality of care for those living with bipolar in the UK.
Despite vast improvements in key areas of mental health, the average age for people to get a diagnosis of bipolar is 34 if someone was diagnosed within the past five years, compared to 26 if someone was diagnosed 30 or more years ago.
“It is shocking that today people are living with undiagnosed bipolar for longer than they were when the charity was formed 40 years ago. The current average delay to diagnosis is 9.5 years. That’s nearly a lost decade where people are struggling with confusing symptoms without getting the vital bipolar-specific treatment and support they need,” said Simon Kitchen, CEO of leading charity Bipolar UK.
“This delay is having catastrophic consequences, with the Bipolar Commission finding that more than a third of the 2,458 people surveyed had attempted suicide because of this delay. This is backed up by research which shows that ‘time to treatment’ is significantly associated with hospitalisations and lifetime suicide attempts.
Tragically, global research estimates that up to 1 in 5 people will take their own life and 60% of people with bipolar will attempt suicide at least once during their lifetime.
It is well established that bipolar has the highest risk of suicide of any mental health condition, yet it is only mentioned once in the Government’s recently published national suicide prevention strategy.
CEO of Bipolar UK CEO, Simon Kitchen, said: “Since Bipolar UK was founded as a charity 40 years ago, we have never stopped campaigning on behalf of those living with bipolar and their families.
“To help prevent the high rate of suicide in those with bipolar and to reduce this unacceptable waiting time for a diagnosis, we are currently campaigning for the Government to commit to prioritising bipolar in the implementation of their national suicide prevention strategy and to commit to reducing the average delay to diagnosis to five year within five years.”
The Bipolar Commission’s Bipolar Minds Matter report launched in parliament in November 2022 includes several recommendations that experts in bipolar and clinicians believe will reduce diagnosis time, improve the quality of life and reduce the high risk of suicide for those living with bipolar.
Kitchen added: “The current care system for bipolar is broken, resulting in an ineffective and inaccurate pathway to diagnosis.
“It is shocking that diagnosis delays are worse now than when Bipolar UK was founded 40 years ago.
“Although we are providing as much support as we can, we desperately need the government to sit up and take action before we lose even more people to suicide.”
Bipolar UK has a 20-minute free e-learning course for those wanting to learn more about the condition as well as a mood disorder questionnaire to help anyone who thinks they might have the condition to get the support they need and receive a quicker diagnosis.