UK Group Develops Online Relapse Prevention Tool for Bipolar Illness

British researchers have developed an online tool to provide support for bipolar patients after treatment.

The relapse prevention website offers a “cheap accessible option” for people seeking support after formal care.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mental health condition characterized by alternating swings of depression and mania. It affects one to two per cent of adults worldwide and costs an estimated £5.2 billion annually in England, and more than $19,000 for the initial year of care in the US.

The condition is treated with medication, yet many people continue to experience relapses.

The new U.K. approach is called the Enhanced Relapse Prevention (ERPonline), a psychological strategy developed by the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at the University of Lancaster.

The program teaches those with the illness to recognize and respond to early warning signs of relapse.

Lead researcher Professor Fiona Lobban said, “The key elements are identifying your individual triggers and early warning signs for both mania and depression, and developing coping strategies to manage mood changes in everyday life.”

The research into ERPonline is published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Investigators followed 96 people split into two groups at random; half could access the ERPonline intervention, while the other half received their usual treatment.

Access to ERPonline was found to be associated with an improvement in beliefs about mood plus increased monitoring of early warning signs of depression and mania compared with patients who did not use the intervention.

Said Lobban, “Online interventions may prove an important cheap, feasible, and acceptable step forward in creating a choice of evidence-based interventions for people with bipolar disorder at different stages of recovery.”

Source: University of Lancaster