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HealthInfo Canterbury

Getting help with bipolar disorder

Many people with bipolar disorder need help with managing their condition, as well as using ways to help themselves.

Talking to your GP is a good place to start. They can discuss treatment options with you and refer you to specialist services if needed.


Medications can be used to help with the depressive or manic symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Mood-stabilising medications such as lithium are used longer term to prevent mood swings.

Talking therapy (psychological treatments)

Talking therapies help you cope with your condition, and manage symptoms of bipolar disorder such as depression. You can get talking therapy and emotional support from a psychologist or counsellor or a brief intervention counselling service (BIS) worker.

Your GP can help you find a therapist or refer you for some free counselling. You can find counsellors, therapists, and psychiatrists in the Family Services Directory, or the Mental Health Resource Centre (MHERC) can help. Some therapy options will cost, but your GP can talk through the approximate cost with you.

Specialist services

Canterbury DHB Specialist Mental Health Services

The Specialist Mental Health Service, a division of the Canterbury District Health Board is the major provider of mental health services in the Canterbury region.

Youth Speciality Services

This is a specialist outpatient service for 13- to 18-year-olds (or older if still at school) with moderate to severe mental illness, and their families. If a young person has mood issues or psychotic symptoms that could be the start of bipolar disorder, the service's early intervention team can provide the best help for them. Read more about Canterbury DHB Child, Adolescent and Family Community Mental Health Services.

Totara House Early Intervention in Psychosis Service

Totara House helps 18 to 30-year-olds who are having psychotic symptoms for the first time. Some of these young adults will be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Counsellor or therapist

You can find a counsellor, therapist or psychiatrist in the Family Services Directory.

Community support

Mental Health Advocacy and Peer Support (MHAPS)

MHAPS is a peer-led and peer-delivered mental health and addictions service. All its peer workers have their own lived experience of mental distress or addiction, and of meaningful recovery. Their experience helps them to listen to you carefully.

It offers peer advocacy, peer support in groups or for individuals, change programmes and workshops and activity and social programmes.

Mental Health Education and Resource Centre (MHERC)

The Canterbury Mental Health Education and Resource Centre Trust (MHERC) provides information, education, and support within the Canterbury region to people with mental health and addiction issues, families/whānau, caregivers, and associates, agencies, and the community.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed November 2020.

Page reference: 52215

Review key: HIBIP-52193