I have personally found that there are many people, places and organizations that can help you cope with bipolar disorder and deal with the many complications that come with the territory whether you have it yourself or are supporting someone who has it. However, most of them don't have advertising budgets or don't have the time or resources to market themselves effectively, so as a result they become almost invisible to the public, and many of the people who could be using their services are unaware of their existence.

I have heard of people living within five minutes of an organization that provides all kinds of free services to those with mental illness that didn't know they existed until someone told them about the service.

To make sure this isn't the case with you and your family, here's what you should do:

Get a list of all the hospitals in your area and call and ask to speak to the hospital social worker. Tell him/her you are looking for people, places and organizations that can help you cope with either supporting someone with bipolar or handling bipolar disorder yourself if you have it. They should be able to provide you with a list of county and city agencies you can contact, including telephone numbers and contact names.

Go to the library and talk to the reference librarian. Make sure you go to the biggest library possible and say the same thing you did to the hospital social worker. In most cases, the reference librarian will do all the work because they love helping people and will quickly be able to pull together a stack of books for you on the subject. They may also be able to help you find resources on the Internet if the library you are using provides Internet services.

Call or email the people who run local support groups. Visit www.nami.org, or http://www.dbsalliance.org/, go to the meetings and ask around. You will be surprised what types of services you can find by networking through support groups and meetings. There are little known places and organizations that do amazing work. For example, I found a person that helps people who lose hair because of their bipolar medications by attending a support meeting.

Check on mental health in your phone book. The free or non-profit organizations will be under the government listings (usually the blue section). The yellow pages may also list resources, but some of these may cost money or be for-profit organizations.

If you have Internet access, you can also go to any one of the major search engines, such as Google.com, Yahoo.com or Ask.com and type in your town, city or state and the words 'mental health.' This will usually pull up some links that will be very helpful. If the search isn't successful for your town, try again with your county instead, since many non-profits are based on a county-wide system rather than by town or city.

I have found that a lot of these groups don't necessarily communicate with one another. One resource might not even know another one exists. You really have to do your home work. If you do all this, you will have a pretty big list of people, places and organizations that can help. After that, start making calls - if you call them, they will help you.