Should Adults with Bipolar Disorder be Leaders?

Human brainBipolar disorder is one of many special needs that we need to understand in Scouting and in life. The negative side of a bipolar individual can be frightening and this prejudices many against anyone with bipolar disorder. Psychological and medical help can control bipolar behavior. Unit leaders can’t automatically exclude anyone based on a disability, especially if a youth member’s parent. Instead, leaders should find out how well the behavior is controlled. Bipolar disorder, like other disabilities, shows different degrees of affliction. Individuals should know where they fit on this scale. This keeps Scouting open to the family where practical and ensures the safety of other youth members.

Many units accept new leaders more-or-less “on approval” by giving them limited tasks as they fit themselves into unit activities. The new leader can show they are not someone to be feared and can prove their steadiness in control. They can demonstrate their strengths and participate in activities that help the unit, like being a merit badge counselor, going on trips to assist in the activity, sending emails with updates to the unit, finding used uniforms, driving and of course, helping with his/her child. Every adult volunteer must take training and YPT, understand BSA guidelines, and follow the policies, rules and regulations.

The unit should try to accommodate any adult willing to help. Look past any disability and accept a person that is willing to volunteer with Scouting. Not all leaders do everything, and many parents sincerely want to help with their child’s unit. Talking to a spouse and/or family member about their disorder, with permission, can help understand what might trigger an episode and what can be done if one occurs. No one solution can fit all situations. Both sides need to work together.

Scouting is a multidimensional. We all have to deal with various situations and people. Training, attitude, understanding, communication, the 12 points of the Scout Law, all help us as leaders deal with any circumstance.