Bipolar Disorder

An Update

14 September 2016, Fourth NCMD Public Meeting

Dr Alan Currie opened the event, hosted at Newcastle University, by introducing the evening’s three speakers: Andrew Bradley, a PhD student at Newcastle University, Stuart Watson, Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Neuroscience, and Lynn Arkless, who founded and manages the Newcastle Bipolar Self Help Group. Dr Currie continued with a little information about NCMD and its aims to raise awareness of mood disorders and improve patient outcomes. He also reported that the Out of the Blues charity has been set up to help with fundraising for the not-for-profit NCMD, and highlighted the Research Register, which is a register of participants for studies relating to mental health research. All and any members of the public are welcome to join it, at no financial expense to themselves.

  •  From left to right: Stuart Watson, Lynn Arkless, Andrew Bradley

Through his PhD, Andrew Bradley is examining the associations between sleep and neuropsychological function in people with primary sleep disorders and severe mental illness. One of the results is that there seems to be a strong correlation between disordered sleeping and severe mental health issues. The implication of this is that one way to tackle poor mental health might be to tackle sleeping issues first, and establish a regular sleeping pattern with an ordered (not haphazard) Circadian rhythm.

Dr Stuart Watson’s lecture focused more on outpatient management, asking questions about how hospitals might best care for discharged mental health patients so as to keep more people well for longer. In particular, he examined why a pioneering outpatient mood disorder clinic was so successful in reducing the volume of hospital re-admissions and increasing the time between re-admissions. There are, of course, many contributing factors, but in the time available, Dr Watson presented three key aspects. One is drug adherence – encouraging outpatients to keep on taking their medication as prescribed, even when they are feeling better, will help keep them well and functioning outside the hospital. A second is for the patient and clinician to develop a good understanding of early warning signs to help detect the onset of a maniac episode as early as possible, leading to earlier intervention. A third aspect is support. Tailored, group psycho-education classes are successful due partly to the close contact between patients and clinicians. However, the cost of clinics like these is may be prohibitive. Talking therapies such as CBT and online toolkits such as Beating Bipolar and the Relatives Education And Coping Toolkit can prove helpful. A final very important factor in staying well is being able to access self-help support groups, and at this point, Stuart handed over to Lynn Arkless.

  •  Dr Watson’s inspiring appellation: “Like Olympic cyclists, Can we do what we do – just a little bit better?”

Lynn spoke eloquently about the difficulties she experienced as a mother when her son, then aged 18, was diagnosed with a bipolar illness. Her experience was of having no one to turn to for independent advice and understanding. Especially in the days before the Internet, finding other people in a similar position was particularly challenging. In order to combat this isolation, and offer help to other people in the same situation, she set up the Newcastle Bipolar Self Help Group in 1990. This is a free, informal and relaxed self help group that meets once a month in Gosforth. The aim is to allow people affected by bipolar illness, as well as their friends and carers, to unwind amongst equals, have a chat over a cuppa, and discuss any issues affecting them. The group also issues a monthly newsletter that picks up on key topics from these meetings.

If you feel the group may be helpful for you, please get in touch at

If you are interested in joining the Research Register, or finding out more about it, please get in touch via the contact form on our website, or contact Sam Bulmer on 0191 208 1393 /




About NCMD

NCMD’s Academic Lead is Dr Hamish McAllister-Williams who will be assisted by an Executive Committee with NTW, Newcastle University and lay membership.


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Please note: NCMD is not a direct provider of clinical services. It is not able to respond to requests for either referral or advice about treatment.