College can be difficult enough without the strain of a mental illness, medication and appointments to keep track of, and having to navigate the world of medical resources alone – perhaps for the first time ever. That is why it is essential to know how to find assistance with managing bipolar disorder at whatever college you choose to attend.
Although large universities often offer comprehensive student health centers (and even limited free counseling sessions with a therapist), many small schools may have fewer services to promote. Whether you attend the nation’s largest state school or the country’s smallest private institution, you can patch together a network of support resources for bipolar disorder. Just keep in mind that in addition to the myriad free resources for managing bipolar disorder, most students with bipolar disorder will still require visits with a mental health professional and a regular prescription medication.
Prepare Yourself for Managing Bipolar Disorder at School
1. Connect with the student health center. Even if you will remain on private or government insurance and visit an off-campus provider, it is advisable to familiarize a school physician with your condition and treatment plan. Ask about local support groups, free resources, and emergency contacts.
2. Search for a local support group through the list of support groups and therapy groups maintained by the MADI Resource Center http://www2.massgeneral.org/madiresourcecenter/moodandanxiety_finding-support_supportgroups.asp. Even if sessions are not available through your university, many local support chapters are offered on a regular basis and are open to the wider community. If one is available near your school, get connected early and ask them for advice about other local resources.
3. Take advantage of the Internet. The web is perhaps the best way to get free assistance with coping with bipolar disorder during college. Free information hubs, like Healthline’s Bipolar Disorder Resource Center, offer tips on managing relationships, explaining your condition to friends, and even handling your condition at work and school. Furthermore, online resources like this can keep you updated on the latest (free!) therapies for bipolar disorder management, such as creativity therapy and yoga.
4. Adopt healthy lifestyle habits that are non-negotiable. Part of managing bipolar disorder well involves developing and maintaining healthy habits. This means following a regular sleep schedule with plenty of rest, exercising regularly, and getting involved with a “good” crowd. Developing friendships with people who will help keep you healthy and accountable during episodes of mania and depression can be a critical safeguard for your health and wellbeing (and criminal record!).
5. Find a dirt-cheap technique for self-therapy. Identifying a free way to manage your emotions, ups and downs, and the stress from school and your illness can literally be a lifesaver. Experiment with creative ways to harness your frustrations and express yourself. Consider blogging, painting, bodybuilding, dancing, cooking, hiking, kickboxing, and other hobbies that allow you to let off steam without spending money or engaging in risky behaviors.
6. Join an online bipolar disorder discussion forum. Many bipolar help sites offer free online chat rooms where you can discuss your emotions, questions, and experiences with other bipolar students or adults who have struggled with the same challenges that you will experience. Take advantage of their advice and don’t be afraid to ask questions. To make forums even more valuable, commit yourself to a regular time session, with daily or weekly time periods of participation.
Regardless of the free methods you choose to supplement your care plan at college, be sure that your choices work for you and your lifestyle. If you don’t enjoy taking the time to scrapbook or talk with others about your experiences, you won’t really get the advantages out of these free therapy options. Experiment until you find a combination that supplements your treatment plan and fits your tastes and preferences, and don’t be afraid to try new activities on for size. Being a college student with bipolar disorder can actually be affordable, fun, and exciting – especially if you make day hikes and chat rooms a part of the experience!
For more information on affordable ways to manage bipolar disorder during college and adulthood, visit Healthline.com’s Bipolar Disorder Resource Center.