Association for persons with bipolar disorder and chronic depression and their family members


Ups & Downs is a self-help organisation for persons affected by bipolar disorder and unipolar depression and their family members. We support both patients and their family members in coping with these illnesses.

Monthly self-help meetings

Ups & Downs is a firmly established patient organization in Belgium and has been active for 25 years now. We focus on organising discussion groups for persons affected by bipolar disorder and unipolar depression and their family members. We believe that, in addition to psychotherapy, medication and psycho-education, self-help groups are an important pillar of recovery and learning to live with mental disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression. In a peer group the participants learn from each other, exchange tips and information and no longer feel alone with their story. In the confidential space of the group discussion there is also room for focusing on one’s own strength, recovery and hope.

At the moment we have ten groups in various cities of Flanders: Antwerpen (Antwerp), Brasschaat, Lede (near Alost), Brugge (Bruges), Gent (Ghent), Geel, Hasselt, Leuven (Louvain), Mechelen (Malines) and an English support group (online). These groups are run by volunteers who are often themselves patients or family members of patients. At the moment we have about 30 active volunteers working for Ups & Downs all over Flanders in the regional self-help groups and in the Board of our organisation.


Ups & Downs gets practically no financial support from the Flemish or Belgian government and has no funds to employ professional staff members. We survive mostly on sponsorship (some pharmaceutical companies, private companies, charity funds) and on an allocation from the Department of Health and Wellbeing of Flanders for our volunteers as we are recognized as an official volunteer organisation.  


In view of this sponsorship we manage to maintain our autonomy and Ups & Downs is an organisation that is run completely by patients for patients. This is our strength but also our weaknesses, as sometimes volunteers are out of the running with a manic or depressive episode. The volunteers are also available as contact persons for their regional groups and get calls of potential participants concerning details of local meeting dates and meeting programmes. Often volunteers help the callers by listening to them end giving them first hand advise from their own personal experience. Of course we do not give any psychotherapy or don not interfere with prescribed medication. In those cases we always refer to professionals and advise that people contact their family doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist.

Collaboration with professionals

We also collaborate well with professionals in asking them to be guest speakers in the regional self-help groups or at seminars that we organise. We are becoming well known for our expertise in professional circles and many doctors see us as a useful addition to their own therapy. In many cases they refer patients to our self-help groups. Often volunteers from Ups & Downs give presentations in schools, mental health centres, educational sessions in psychiatric hospitals and at other events where a larger public is reached. We participate at all kinds of initiatives to fight stigma.


We recently have published a new self-help manual where all current information on bipolar disorder is brought together. 
The Depression guide is the result of a successful collaboration process between Ups & Downs and Janssen Pharmaceutical Company (Beerse). It is a co-creation in which we, as a patient association, had a full say and in which our expertise was cleary valorised.  A multidisciplinary editorial board was set up comprising both patients and family members as well as professionals from Janssen. Numerous Flemish psychiatrists and major associations from the Mental Health field contributed to the project with their expertise.

You can find these publications here


People can become member of Ups & Downs and the membership fee only comes to 20 euros per family. In exchange they receive our newsletter and can benefit from reductions on seminars or other events that we organise. Our newsletter, Ups & Downs appears 4 times a year and is distributed to our own members (around 350 people).

Partners in Europe

Ups & Downs is also a member of GAMIAN Europe. Global Alliance of Mental Illness Advocacy Networks-Europe (GAMIAN-Europe). This is a patient-driven pan-European organisation, representing and advocating the interests and rights of persons affected by mental ill health. Its main activities relate to advocacy, information, awareness-raising and education and partnership and capacity building. Overarching themes in our work relate to anti-stigma and discrimination and patients’ rights.
More information: