Getting Started

by Karen Cruise, Family Helpline Team Leader and Nanci Schiman, MSW, CAPSW

You have probably come to us because you have a child who either has been diagnosed with a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder or who you suspect might have a mood disorder. Where do you start? First, take a breath. You’ve found us, so you are not alone. We are here to guide you through.

Next, you are going to have to do some multi-tasking. You are going to need to:

  • Get support for yourself. 
  • Build the proper treatment team for your child. 
  • Expand your knowledge of depression or bipolar disorder. 
  • Look at how your child’s illness affects his or her education.

Don’t worry! We are going to help you! These pages are filled with advice from the Balanced Mind Parent Network parents, people who collectively have dealt with all of these issues and more. You’ll also find loads of information, references to websites, books and other resources that will help you to help your child.

Table of Contents
Getting Support for Yourself  
What is Child Onset Bipolar Disorder?
Diagnosing Pediatric BP
Mood Charts and Journaling
Crisis Planning
Psychiatric Hospitalization
Police Intervention
Childcare for Siblings
Physical Illnesses
The Impact of Bipolar Disorder on the Family
Glossary of Terms

Getting Support for Yourself

We have listed this first because having a support system in place is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to ensure that you can go the distance in supporting and advocating for your child. Mental illness can be isolating. Connecting with other parents who have had similar experiences and who can offer comfort and encouragement will give you strength, hope and encouragement. When no one else seems to understand, when blame seems to be coming from all sides, or when you need information and ideas from other parents, connecting through our online support programs can feel like a safe harbor in the midst of a storm. All of our parent support programs are staffed by trained, experienced and understanding volunteers.

Support comes in several forms.

Our online support communities provide 24/7 access to information and support which makes them ideal for those who want more frequent interaction or who are unable to attend in person meetings. This is particularly convenient when your child is unstable and it’s difficult to get away to a meeting. Our online support communities are a great way to connect with other families and develop friendships and relationships. The communities are private, which means that only other community members can interact within the group. The communities combine the support of other parents who have had similar experiences, their collective knowledge as well as conversational, sometimes off topic discussions.  Most people send and receive messages via email, however you can read and post at the website, or receive a daily digest of all posts bundled into one email. Some people prefer the digest format because it allows you to quickly skim through the day’s messages and read only those that interest you. Both types of support foster human connection and opportunities to help others. Join an online support community today!


Join a cyber family of caring and supportive parents. We have a variety of groups designed to meet your needs. Click here to see a list of our online support communities. 

Contact our Family Helpline if you need information and resources specific to your family’s situation and can’t find what you're looking for on our site.