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Juanita: Dad has Bipolar

youth contemplating

Juanita, 14, lives with her father and two younger brothers. Right now, she’s super worried because her father is drinking a lot again. He’s also been staying out at night and then coming in and sleeping all morning. He is likely to lose his job and then they might have to move again if they lose their apartment when there is no money to pay the rent. Once before, they had to move in with relatives or go to a homeless shelter.

Her father has a mental illness called bipolar disorder. He has mood swings with a short time of being manic followed by a long time of being depressed. When he is manic, he is usually really, really happy and doesn't sleep much. Once in a while, he will be extra irritable instead. When he is happy manic, he buys the children presents that the family can’t really afford and talks to his friends a lot. He also tends to drink alcohol more often and stay out all night. He will also stop taking his bipolar medication so he can drink more (medication plus drinking can be a problem).

When he is depressed, he doesn't talk much to anyone. He looks sad and grumpy. Once she found out that he was thinking about suicide a lot. “Who would take care of our family then?” she wondered.

When her father takes his medicine, he is able to work and take care of the children. So most of the time, the family does well. But right now, things are not good. She knows that her father’s illness or wellness is not her fault, but she tries to help out more at home and take good care of herself. She wonders if there is anything else she can do other than wait for things to get worse or get better.