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What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is a condition in which there is a disorder of mood, with the mood swinging from very low (depression) to very high (mania), thus its previous name of manic depression. People also have periods of stable moods between these episodes. Often people describe this as feeling like they are on a rollercoaster, however with treatment life can be full and promising again. Bipolar is generally categorised into three main types, Bipolar 1, full episodes of both mania and depression, Bipolar II, episodes of hypomania and depression and Bipolar NOR, which is Bipolar not otherwise specified, which covers mixed episodes and rapid cycling.

Why the change from “Manic Depression” to “Bipolar”? Many people assumed the manic was a shortened form of maniac, thus giving people with this condition a real stigma and isolation, by renaming it Bipolar it has allowed us to educate people that it is exactly that, a swing from one pole to the other, thus two poles, i.e. “Bipolar”.

Even Keel offers a network of support groups in Western Australia for people diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (also known as manic depression), depression, schizophrenia and related disorders. Participation in these groups can have a healing effect, allowing participants to better understand their illness, explore their issues and and gain better control of their lives. Family, friends and other interested members of the community are welcome to attend our groups, including our online forum. We also have a library and resource centre. Our group coordinators are caring, supportive and empathic; with many of our employees having a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder themselves.

Our Mission

Our aim at Even Keel is to offer friendship, understanding, information and a sense of hope to people living with Bipolar Disorder or related disorders. Also to educate people and thus remove the stigma associated with mental illness. We also welcome family, friends and other interested community members.

Welcome to this site. Please step in and have a look around. We hope that you enjoy the site and find some valuable information. If you would like to become a member of Even Keel please contact the office. By becoming a member you get support for yourself and also support us in our efforts to help others. You will receive an introductory kit and also a three monthly newsletter. We are also available Mon and Fri 9.30-3.30pm for you to discuss any issues you may have or to access our Library and resource centre.


Even Keel has been operating now for thirty years. Thank you to the founding committee members who created this valuable and nurturing organisation. We would also like to thank all our members who are all a valuable part of our service.

Here are a few comments from our members:

“…what I like most about the support groups is being able to discuss the issues that are most important to me…”

“…I have found so many useful and entertaining books and videos in the library…”

Recovery Stories – A celebration of stories, lived experience and hope

WAAMH, with the support of the Mental Health Commission, is hosting the Western Australian Mental Health Conference 2016.

The conference runs for two days (10-11 March 2016) and will be held at Fraser’s in Kings Park. It will provide a forum for learning, development and networking with a holistic, person-centred perspective, based on recovery principles and engaging the full spectrum of the WA mental health sector and the community.

In addition the whole community is invited to join delegates for a special event on Thursday evening featuring an inspiring line-up of people sharing tales of lived experience. Through the sharing of personal experiences, attendees will be encouraged to celebrate recovery by candlelight.

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Promising to be a conference highlight, this event is open to family, friends and the wider community. Attendees do not need to be conference delegates.

Recovery Stories by Candlelight will be held in the magical surrounds of the Mount Eliza House gardens, nestled in the heart on Kings Park.

Event Details

6.30pm – 7.30pm – Dinner (provided)
7.30pm – 9.30pm – Storytelling

Thursday 10 March, 2016
Mount Eliza House Gardens,
Fraser Ave, Kings Park

$17 / $11 concession
includes LED candles, a casual dinner and a night of storytelling, live music, great conversation and inspiring memories.

Tickets to the event will be available to conference delegates as part of the registration process.

Extra tickets are available to family, friends and the general public by clicking here.

Music to Open your Mind 2016

Volunteers are needed to help run the 10th annual “Music to Open Your Mind” family festival on Sunday, 20 March 2016.

Music to Open Your Mind is at Kings Square in Fremantle and uses a music festival to promote mental health services and challenge stigma.

The event features an afternoon of music, market stalls and children’s activities, to bring community members into contact with mental health services from across Perth.

In past years the event has attracted volunteers from across the local community, who either love music, have an interest in mental health or just like to help out.

Find out more on their Facebook page


Donation Program at Grill’d Brookfield Place PERTH


Hi All Even Keel Members and Potential Members

Great news! We’ve been nominated to participate in the Grill’d Local Matters Donation Program at Grill’d Brookfield Place this month, NOVEMBER 2014.

Every month, Grill’d donates $500 to local groups and asks their customers to decide who the money goes to.

When customers buy a burger, they will receive a token to put into one of 3 jars representing different groups. Whoever has the most tokens at the end of the month receives $300. The other two groups receive $100 each.

Please do do your bit to help our cause, spread the word and head on down to

Grill’d CBD – Brookfield Place 

Perth Tech Building 125 St Georges Terrace  Perth WA 6000

Tel: (08) 9226 4888

Grill'd Brookfield Place - Google Maps


MON: 11AM – 9.30PM                            FRI: 11AM – 11PM
TUE: 11AM – 9.30PM                             SAT: 12PM – 9PM
WED: 11AM – 9.30PM                            SUN: 12PM – 9PM
THU: 11AM – 10PM

Comedians mine the funny side of mental illness


Comedians mine the funny side of mental illness

From the Sydney Morning Herald


“Part of having a mental illness is the shame that goes with having a mental illness,” he says. “What happens with comedy is that you take all those experiences that you are ashamed of, all those things you have never wanted to tell people, that have been sitting in your soul like a black toxic sludge, and you start to talk about them and make them funny and all of a sudden you realise people can relate.”

The program has run for 10 years and over that time, Granirer has seen hundreds of people with mental illness extract surprising humour from their situation and feel a lot better because of it.

“At one point one of my comics was in psychosis and he thought he was Jesus,” he says. “He was hospitalised and they had him sharing a room with a guy who thought he was Satan. You can’t write comedy like that.”

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/comedy/comedians-mine-the-funny-side-of-mental-illness-20141029-11d3pf.html

Running saved my life – bipolar sufferer Simon Lamb

Here is a great video to watch in which bipolar sufferer Simon Lamb explains how “running saved my life”

Form the website

Bipolar sufferer Simon Lamb explains how long-distance running saved his life.

The 39-year-old, who attempted suicide “quite a few times”, says the “more I ran, the better I felt”, and last Christmas ran 77 miles from London to Portsmouth.

Check it out as well as all the other great resources at the BBC Get Inspired website.

At the BBC we cover all the greatest sporting action on TV, Radio and Online but now it’s your turn to create some action of your own. We’ve been hunting down activities and sports for all of you, and now it’s time to Get Inspired.

Whether you are just starting out, wanting to get back into a sport or perhaps you want to try something new, our website provides you with films and features for inspiration and easy to follow guides, with hints and tips and practical advice regardless of your age, gender or ability.

One of its other aims is to look at how exercise and a healthy lifestyle can help with a variety of mental illnesses.

Artists, Bipolar and the role of art in recovery

While working on our latest newsletter I came across some great articles about artists, bipolar and how art has/is being used in their recovery. Some made the cut for our newsletter but others didn’t (mainly due to space) so I thought we would link to them here.

One that did make it in the newsletter was this Guardian article entitled Robert Burns’s suspected bipolar disorder used to fight illness’s stigma.

Dr Daniel Smith … said of Burns that the poet “had a complicated and some might say tempestuous personal history, with bouts of melancholic depression, heavy lifelong alcohol consumption and considerable instability in relationships, including a series of extramarital affairs”.

Smith, reader in psychiatry at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing and a medical adviser to Bipolar Scotland, said it was “possible” that Burns’s “life history and his prodigious literary output may have been influenced by a recurrent disorder of mood, such as bipolar disorder”, although “it is difficult to prove conclusively”.

and also

Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s Makar, said last year of Burns that “there’s quite a lot of compelling evidence that he was quite probably what would now be called bipolar – that kind of energy that can get the most incredible, almost supernatural amount of work done in a short time, while also ploughing the fields and making love to four different women”.

All of this is may be very interesting for the history student/fan of Burn’s work but what are the implications for us today?

Smith, in Glasgow, said that “the link between creativity and mental illness has been known since antiquity – for example, Aristotle observed that ‘No great genius has ever existed without a strain of madness’ – but more recent epidemiological research suggests a specific relationship between creativity and bipolar disorder”, adding that “this link has important implications for our understanding of the causes of severe mood disorders and understanding it more fully might help to tackle stigma against those with mental illness”.

Two articles that didn’t make the cut follow on from the ideas of the original article in the Guardian (isn’t this always the danger of researching on the internet). A Room With A View? Asylum Art in the 19th Century documents how art was an important part of the patients treatment.

“A room without pictures is as bad as a room without windows.”

So wrote a newspaper reporter in the Dumfries Herald in 1881, when commenting approvingly on the therapeutic environment of the Crichton Royal Institution and Southern Counties Asylum in Dumfries. Like many other psychiatric hospitals of the period, the galleries of this institution were indeed heavily decorated. Domestic furnishings, pictures, birdcages, plants and drapes were all intended to contribute to a domestic appearance, thought to be both comforting and morally and spiritually uplifting. Indeed, the domestic environment of the asylum was often interpreted as directly curative. The annual reports of many asylum medical superintendents frequently focused on improvements to facilities, with very little information that we might regard as directly medical, such as physical and pharmaceutical intervention.

And the staff weren’t just encouraged to participate, it was enforced with the possibility of unemployment if you didn’t.

Doctors also often regarded themselves as artists. Medical obituaries of the late nineteenth century regularly highlighted the various creative pursuits of psychiatrists, seen as an important indication of their intellectual status as Victorian gentlemen. Participation in musical and dramatic performances was expected of all asylum staff, including the low-paid ward attendants. Indeed, when one attendant walked out of a band practice session at the Crichton Royal Institution in Dumfries in December 1880, he was told by the superintendent to “choose whether to be obedient, contented and loyal or leave the place”. He selected the latter, and left that same evening. Theo Hyslop, superintendent of Bethlem Royal Hospital from 1898 to 1911, was a keen artist, who exhibited at the Royal Academy and later became a controversial art critic.

What caught my eye however was how much attention art received as a tool in therapy.

Hyslop also seems to have encouraged his patients to paint, and organised a public exhibition of some of this art at Bethlem in 1900. Indeed, in many asylums, some of the art on display was certainly created by patients. Sometimes, artists happened to be resident within the institution. Richard Dadd, for example, created most of his famous works while an inmate of Bethlem and, later, Broadmoor.

Fast forward to the 21st century and let’s ask ourselves then how patients might design a psychiatric hospital

Artist and activist James Leadbitter is on a mission to design a user-friendly psychiatric hospital, with the help and ideas of anyone who wants to get involved.

The Madlove project is borne of Leadbitter’s own experiences on psychiatric wards which he feels did not always offer what he needed – even though he accepts that NHS hospitals have been necessary for him at other times.

Many comment on the less-than-helpful role that a hospital’s typically austere decor plays in aiding recovery.

The interior should be more welcoming, says Rowan Mataram, “moving away from the clinical [feel], so coloured pillows and non-white walls.”

There should be big windows and any white walls should be covered with plants, books or maybe patient artwork and poems, says Mataram. “It [would] feel more like a home/space where people can get back on their feet.”

Great stuff (even though the Victorians seemed to have some of this worked out over a century ago). But what if we took it a step further and instead of decorating walls with artwork, why not make the walls themselves a work of art?

One person with bipolar disorder, who wished to remain anonymous, wants to see a room “where I can explode with colour – whether it be paint or coloured liquids”. And rather than permanent mess, the room would be entirely washable – from floor tiles to the ceiling – complete with a drain. “Once the explosion is finished, [it] can be washed away easily and can go down the drain with no lasting damage caused.”

Wouldn’t everyone want a room like that.

More than half of Australian workplace managers don’t understand mental health issues

People Diagnostic prepared an interesting summary of mental health research in the workplace for their “Mental Health in Australian Workplaces Infographic 2014′. They outline some of their reason for this work below:-

Employee mental health is receiving unprecedented attention by Australian businesses. This is rightly justified as recent research has demonstrated that it is not just individuals who have a mental disorder that suffer but there are also impacts on individual workplaces.

So we at People Diagnostix decided to ask ourselves – what does current research say about the prevalence of mental disorders and what is the true cost to business?

We also looked to research to understand what employees with mental disorders recommend be done to create mentally healthy workplaces in the future.

Some of the stats

Fewer than half of managers (43%) were said to understand mental illness and how it affected people in the workplace.1

The majority of managers in Australia (70%) confessed that they ‘did not know’ the number of days lost in their company due to depression.2

This is pretty scary stuff. And all of this is leading to a majority of workers suffering in silence.

You can take a look at the full infographic here. And please pass it on to anyone you know who has responsibility for others in their workplace. Education is one way we can turn the tide on this.