Our research findings comparing mental health prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic among individuals with bipolar disorder have recently been published in the journal ‘Bipolar Disorders’. This is the first study carried out in the UK that has collected mood data both before and during the pandemic, thanks to all of the BDRN participants providing weekly data on their mental health using the BDRN True Colours mood monitoring tool. Symptoms of depression, mania, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts were compared in 2019 (before the pandemic) and 2020 (during the pandemic). Many BDRN participants also provided weekly data on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on anxiety, coping strategies, access to care, and medications.
The results found that although mood symptoms did not significantly increase during the pandemic overall, there was a very mixed pattern in terms of individual differences. There were high rates of anxiety about the pandemic and its impact on coping strategies, which increased to over 70% among individuals in January 2021. A significant proportion of participants reported difficulty accessing routine mental health care (27%) and medications (21%).
Our findings highlight individuals’ unique histories and psychosocial circumstances are key to understanding the impact of the pandemic. Alongside this study we have carried out qualitative interviews to explore individual impacts of the pandemic among individuals with bipolar disorder. We will be reporting that data soon so please watch this space.
We would like to say a special thank you to BDRN True Colours participants for continuing to provide weekly mood ratings throughout the COVID-19 and making this research possible.
If you would like to join True Colours please let us know. True Colours is available to all BDRN research participants – further details available here: http://bdrn.org/research/true-colours/