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Why have I not been told about this? a survey of experiences of and attitudes to advance decision-making amongst people with bipolar

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Original languageEnglish
JournalWellcome Open Research
Issue number16
Early online date29 Jan 2019
E-pub ahead of print29 Jan 2019
Published23 Apr 2019


King's Authors


Background: The idea that people with severe mental illness should be able to plan in advance for periods of illness as a means of enhancing autonomy has been long debated and is increasingly being enshrined in codes of practice and mental health legislation. It has been argued that the ethical imperative for this is especially pronounced in bipolar (BP), a condition in which sufferers often experience episodic crises interspersed with periods of wellness. However, there is a paucity of published research investigating experiences of advance decision making (ADM) in people with BP or their attitudes towards it.
Methods: An online survey of BPUK’s mailing list was conducted. 932 people with BP completed the survey (response rate 5.61%). Descriptive statistics and regression analysis were conducted to compare experience of with attitudes towards ADM and variables associated with interest in ADM.
Results: A majority indicated a desire to plan care in advance of losing capacity (88%) but most had not done so (64%). High numbers of respondents expressed a wish to request as well as refuse treatment and most wanted to collaborate with psychiatrists, including on issues around self-binding. The most frequent motivation to utilise ADM was a desire to be more involved in mental health decisions. Interest in self-binding was associated with experience of compulsory treatment and trust in mental health services. Interest in refusals of all medication was associated with younger age and lack of trust in mental health services. Interest in ADM in general was associated with younger age but not educational level, ethnicity or gender.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates an appetite for ADM amongst people with bipolar that is independent of educational status and ethnicity. As states reform their mental health laws, attention needs to be given to the distinctive attitudes toward ADM amongst people with bipolar.

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