New websites aim to sort information from nonsense on bipolar disorder
UBC team aims to help people live healthy, happy lives
By Bethany Lindsay, Vancouver Sun March 31, 2015
Dr. Erin Michalak and her team at UBC have developed two websites to help people with bipolar disorder.
Photograph by: RICHARD LAM Richard Lam , Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER — For many people, the Internet is the first place to turn for answers about illness and mental health issues.
But if you’ve ever consulted Dr. Google, you know that it can be difficult to sort the helpful, evidence-based information from the nonsense.
That’s why a UBC psychiatry professor and her team are launching two new online tools to help people with bipolar disorder manage their illness and lead healthy, happy lives.
“We’ve spent many years creating research on different strategies people with bipolar disorder can use to flourish, to live well and to have good quality of life,” said professor and team leader Dr. Erin Michalak. “We’ve spent the last two years … really kind of distilling that down and using different methods to share that information with people.”
The result of these years of research is two websites, launching Monday to mark World Bipolar Day — the Bipolar Wellness Centre and the Quality of Life Tool.
The wellness centre is a hub for resources to help people with bipolar disorder manage their symptoms and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Besides written information, it also includes web seminars on issues like mood, exercise, relationships and sleep, as well as videos starring Victoria Maxwell, an actor coping with bipolar disorder.
The second website is a companion piece. It asks users to complete a five-minute questionnaire about their quality of life, then shows them what aspects they might want to work on.
“The two sites are connected,” Michalak said.
“For example, if they’re struggling in sleep or struggling in their spiritual life, they have tailored information on that, and then they can go into the specific areas in the wellness centre and speak to specific problems with sleep or specific problems with spirituality.”
The primary goal is to provide the best information to help people with bipolar disorder thrive, but there’s also a research component to the work.
“What we really need to know from these sites is how do you take health information and make it readily usable to people who are facing bipolar disorder on a day-to-day basis?” Michalak said.
The next step will begin in September, when the team will launch a “living library.” People with bipolar disorder will be able to talk to experts on the illness — doctors, academics and even other patients — through two 30-minute conversations via a secure tele-health system.
“The philosophy is that you’re checking out a person rather than a book,” Michalak said. “This is really one of the more creative aspects of the project.”
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Visit the Bipolar Wellness Centre via: www.bdwellness.com .
The Quality of Life Tool can be reached via www.bdqol.com