Bipolar disorder is a difficult condition, it is highly emotional and it is often misunderstood. The bipolar patient behaves erratically, has extreme mood swings and may even become violent. In some cases the patient may be well enough to lead normal lives with the help of medication and psychotherapy, however some may require hospital confinement especially if the mania and the depression becomes too intense. Research on bipolar disorder have yielded new knowledge and information in the sense that we are learning more about bipolar disorder than we had in the past, but much remains to be discovered.
On the outset, the literature of bipolar disorders have been based on finding new treatments or assessing the effectiveness of a treatment, it is only in the past decade that quality of life and social support networks of bipolar patients had been investigated (Bowden, Lecrubier, Bauer, Goodwin, Greil, Sachs & von Knorring, 2000). The present research is geared towards building knowledge of the kind of life that bipolar patients lead especially in how they view their social support network and how they perceive it as affecting the way they cope and manage their disease.
This study will be qualitative in nature, my role as a researcher will be to investigate and understand how bipolar patients perceive the presence of significant others as a social support system. In this role, I am not merely gathering data or observing their behaviors, emotions or feelings but to build a relationship with them and see it with their eyes and feel it with their hearts so I could be able to describe it more vividly and let their thoughts be heard.
On the other hand, I would still adhere to the research standards and protocols so as to ensure that what I find and discover will be accepted as a valid report of bipolar patient’s thoughts and feelings (Smith & Adame, 2006). I am inclined to qualitative research when I am tasked to explore thoughts and feelings, I believe that merely getting a score or a rating on a survey and reporting it as evidence of human processes is sorely lacking because honestly we are more than numbers. Moreover, bipolar patients have a whole range of emotions which can never be adequately quantified.
I am interested in bipolar disorder because I think that they are misunderstood and since scientific evidence have placed it as a neurologically based, the humanness and the personhood of the patient has largely been taken out of the picture. Saying this, I think it is a personal bias that may color my interpretation and findings and of which I am aware and will take necessary measures to prevent it from placing a stronger influence in my treatment of the data and narratives I would gather in the conduct of the study. But as they say, qualitative research is about bringing the person back to scientific study and it is what I hope to achieve.
Thus, measures like using a panel of coders and evaluators to treat the data I would gather will help answer the questions of objectivity and validity. Moreover, I would also make it a point to interview bipolar patients who have been successfully leading a normal life and whose symptoms have not recurred for a year, indicating that the patient will be qualified to participate in the study and that they are mentally healthy to report their thoughts and feelings (Dion, Tohen, Anthony & Waternaux, 1988), I would want to have them assessed by a professional if it is needed.
The ethical issues surrounding this study will still be the same as those that involve the use of human participants as well as questions about the mental state of the patients and how qualified they are to give their informed consent and volunteer in the study (Adame & Hornstein, 2006). These concerns will be a limitation to the study of which I am prepared to deal with given that all mental health qualitative researches contend with the same issues.