World Bipolar Day
Today is the 5th annual World Bipolar Day a day to help reduce stigma and increase awareness.
Let me start by saying my life in 2015 took a dark swing. Eventually, I literally walked into a local Community Mental Health office and simply stated that I needed help. They saved my life. But it also felt like a label got slapped on my head when I was diagnosed with BPII. Ever since then my diagnosis has been a tightly guarded secret. Depression is okay, but bipolar is for crazy people. I’ve been afraid of judgment and mockery (from others) followed closely by (my own) isolation, sadness, and self-hate.
If the only thing you know about Bipolar is that your ex is one, you might need to learn a few things. The Black Dog Institute is a good place to start. Bipolar is not a light switch where you’re either on or off. It’s a pendulum.
And here’s why you should care. Statistics via the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) state bipolar is the 6th leading cause of disability worldwide, people with BP have a shorter life span by an average of nine years, and one in five people with BP will complete suicide. BP presents as depression in teens and is frequently misdiagnosed for adults. The quality and stability in my life would have been so much better if a diagnosis had come sooner.
But the delay for treatment is complicated. Few people understand the basics of BP. And there is a huge stigma regarding the diagnosis of mental illness. It wasn’t that long ago that people believed (and still do) that mental illness stems from sin and demonic influence. Lunatics should be restrained in asylums. The true stigma faced by those with undiagnosed mental illness is shame. What will my boss, neighbors, and spouse think of me?
We can dispel these shadows by education. Help needs to be sought, accepted, and, most importantly, supported. And that is what World Bipolar Day is all about.
If you’re interested in how science is dipping into the deep dark waters of Bipolar, The Black Dog Institute is focusing research efforts on suicide prevention, workplace mental health, novel treatments, teen and youth diagnosis, trauma, and ‘knowledge translation‘ which is “…addressing the gap between what is known from research and the implementation of this knowledge” with the end goal of improving the health system’s efficacy in care and treatment.
University of Michigan's Heinz C Prechter Bipolar Research Program has a longitudinal study for earlier intervention, diagnosis, and treatment; a genetics repository; PRIORI which allows for rapid intervention at the onset of mania, depression and suicide; and stem cell research.
Keep reading about BP. You might save someone’s life.