Give Bipolar UK your coffee money – please!

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O K, so times are hard and very few of us have avoided being hit by the recession in some way. For us journalists, it’s the shedding of jobs and the ever-shrinking pot available to pay freelancers (one of my editors described us journalists as being ‘on top of a shrinking iceberg’). When you’re at the ‘bottom of the food chain’ (as a friend disparagingly but aptly described freelancers) it’s only to be expected that you, rather than staffers, feel the pinch first. Like writing a news story, trimming happens from the bottom up. That’s fine – I guess in lean times it’s diversify or die, and we all have to work out how to do that…somehow.

However, it’s the ability of other people to ride the storm that worries me more – actually, it’s charities and the people they affect that concern me the most. Bipolar UK announced this week that some of its services may be cut because the charity faces a funding crisis as its income has plummeted in the economic downturn. It is seeking to raise £100,000 over the next few weeks or some of its services may have to go, such as its youth service, mentoring service and its web-based discussion forum for people suffering from bipolar.

Although it’s only a small national charity, the nature of bipolar makes it an important one. Bipolar, which causes severe mood swings from manic highs often involving hospitalisation and sectioning to suicidal lows, affects 1-2 per cent of the UK population. And the illness can be truly deadly – it increases the risk of suicide by up to 20 times. According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), bipolar disorder is one of the top causes of lost years of life and health in 15 to 44 year olds. Famous sufferers include Stephen Fry, Sinead O’Connor and Bill Oddie, who have all helped to raise awareness of the condition.

Sadly, the news of Bipolar UK’s financial difficulties doesn’t surprise me. According to the Charities Aid Foundation and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, donations to charity dropped by 20 per cent during 2012 from £11bn to £9.3bn. Not only that, but the number of people giving to charity  and the amount they gave also dropped. This coincides with central and local government funding to charities also dropping (or, in some cases, disappearing altogether). Times are truly hard.

The trouble is this – charitable giving is dropping because of the economic downturn, but it’s also these hard times that mean we need these organisations more than we ever have. Last year, mental health charity Mind said there had been a surge in calls to its helplines since the start of this recession, with calls about personal finance and employment issues having doubled since 2008. However, the charity also said that 40 per cent of calls were having to go unanswered because of demand and it was facing a funding crisis.

I know how important the work of Bipolar UK is – it has helped me. Cliched though it may sound, attending one of their self-help groups threw me a lifeline. After years of feeling crazy, different and incapable of being helped, I felt like I’d found a place of acceptance. It was like coming home. To put a price on that would be impossible. Actually, no – the price is £100,000, the amount Bipolar UK is looking for to keep these and other crucial services going.

Today I received an email from Bipolar UK, asking for a donation of £3. It made me think – rather ashamedly – of a time when I gave money each month to a homeless charity before deciding I couldn’t afford it anymore. It  was literally £3 per month (it may even have been £2…the shame of it). What exactly was I going to spend it on? A skinny decaf latte, probably, or something equally overpriced and anticlimactic. That money that went on froth and packaging could have really helped other people – those who couldn’t even guarantee a bed to sleep in at night, let alone the luxury of a hyped-up drink. I have my tail between my legs.

And so, for two reasons – firstly, because I so badly let that other charity down and secondly because I know how amazing (and vital) the work of Bipolar UK is – I’m using this blog entry today to blatantly ask you to give them some money. Text ‘BIPO33 £3’ to 70070 to give £3 today (or change £3 to any amount you wish to donate).

If you’re still in need of your caffeine buzz, pop round to mine…I even do decaf.

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Freelance journalist and mental health blogger, based in London UK

2 Responses to “Give Bipolar UK your coffee money – please!” Subscribe

  1. xina54 January 29, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    Thanks for this, and for making it so simple to donate. I help run the Chesterfield BiPolarUK group and it’s such a valuable resource for us.

  2. martharoberts69 January 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Thanks, Xina (and thanks, too, for helping to run one of the BipolarUK groups – amazing). Martha

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