Reducing Suicide Risk In Your Bipolar Adolescent With Psychoeducational Counselling

If your teen has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (BPD), you probably have your hands full. In addition to mood swings and medications, you may be concerned about suicide risk, as this is a heightened concern with anyone who has BPD. Here's a look at how psychoeducational counselling can help reduce the risk of suicide in your adolescent, as part of a comprehensive approach to managing mental illness.

What is Psychoeducational Counselling, and Why Is It Important?

Psychoeducational counselling is a type of therapy that addresses mental illness from a comprehensive viewpoint. First, the patient is educated about their condition, so they understand why they are on medication and what behaviours are counterproductive to good mental health. Also, the family of the patient is usually included in the counselling, especially if the patient is a minor.

When all members of the family are aware of the issues surrounding a mental illness, they can better cope with challenges and create healthy ways to deal with them. This multi-faceted approach is ideal for adolescents with BPD because of the additional hurdles they face:

  • stigmas about being different
  • fluctuating hormones
  • peer pressure about substance abuse
  • age-related risk-taking behaviours
  • poor sleep habits
  • desire to control their own lives

How Does Psychoeducational Counselling Help with Medications?

One of the biggest struggles with teens who have BPD is getting them to take their medications, such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers. Kids don't want to stand out from other kids, and sometimes the medications have unpleasant side effects or make kids feel "numbed out."

Also, there is a general tendency with all medications for people to stop taking them when they feel better. Teens with BPD need to understand that their drug therapy will likely be lifelong and that being in remission is great, but won't last without the drugs.

This is actually an ideal way for kids to feel they have control over their condition, and psychoeducational counselling can help reinforce this. Psychoeducational therapy can also help adolescents understand the risks that going off their medications can entail, including the increased threat of suicidality.

How Can You Recognize an Impending Mood Swing?

You've probably had your child's mood change on what seems like a dime. But there are actually signs that a mood shift is impending, and psychoeducational counselling can help you uncover these. It is advantageous to recognize these warning signs, because people with BPD often don't recognize when they are heading towards a mood episode. Some common red flags include

  • sudden change in sleep habits
  • fatigue and loss of energy
  • body aches and pains
  • change in eating habits or weight
  • loss of interest in activities
  • sadness or depression
  • feelings of low self-worth or guilt
  • irritability or quickness to anger
  • inability to concentrate
  • disorganized thinking or poor decision-making ability
  • increased focus on death or suicidal ideation

How Can You Develop Family Coping Strategies?

Psychoeducational counselling helps families recognize the warning signs above and head mood shifts off at the pass. This type of therapy reinforces healthy habits, like diet, exercise, and sufficient sleep, while teaching teens how to avoid triggers, such as alcohol use or spending time with friends who aren't supportive. It can also offer advice on stress management for the entire family, as BPD is not just an illness of the adolescent, but the parents and siblings as well.

Support groups or multi-family counselling sessions are common with psychoeducational counselling and are another way families learn more about coping with BPD. If you think a psychoeducational assessment would be beneficial for your teen, you can ask your child's clinicians if there is a program in the area. While bipolar disorder is a serious challenge for families, there are ways to help teens with BPD lead nearly normal lives, and their relatives along with them.