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Understanding and addressing bipolar disorder

By The Health News Team | May 3, 2019
Fighting back against bipolar disorder

William Garcia’s* son has had bipolar disorder for more than 20 years. He and his late wife didn’t want to admit their son had a mental disorder, but as he continued to lock himself in the bathroom, shouting for hours at a time, they accepted something was very wrong.

“He checked himself into a mental health facility for the first time more than 15 years ago. He’s been back a handful of times since. It always comes down to taking his medication,” Garcia says. “It works for him and when he takes it, he’s a good husband, parent, and successful college graduate and retail employee. But if he stops, he becomes angry and starts fights. He’ll say I don’t love him and not talk to me for months. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to deal with him when he’s in a bipolar episode.”

Bipolar disorder falls on the spectrum of behavioral health issues that also includes depression, anxiety, psychosis and substance abuse. Across the country, millions of people experience these issues, with that number growing each year. In San Diego, the problem is just as pervasive, affecting 1 in 5 individuals and many more friends and family.

As behavioral health issues grow, so do visits to local ERs; in 2018, the emergency department at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center saw nearly 1,000 patients whose primary diagnosis was psychosis.

“These issues can be frightening and isolating,” says Dr. Andres Smith, director of emergency medicine at Sharp Chula Vista. “Many times, what patients truly need is not a trip to the ER, but rather services like counseling in their community. While it’s our mission to care for every patient who walks through our doors, it’s our goal to connect patients with the help and support they need.”

“As a family, we must not give up on our loved ones afflicted with this illness, but encourage them to listen to their doctor and take their medication faithfully. That has been the key for my son,” Garcia says.

*Name changed

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