World Bipolar Day: Views from our columnist in Spain

LAST week on March 30 we celebrated World Bipolar Day. It’s a day the world comes together to raise awareness for this mental health disorder that affects 46 million people around the world.

So, having celebrated last week, here are some aspects of bipolar disorder that are important to understand, so you can help combat social stigma:

  • Bipolar affects every part of your life: It may be difficult to fully understand the strain bipolar disorder can take on someone because it is an invisible illness. You look perfectly fine but it can be crippling – from intense relationships, working, and all aspects of everyday life – from sleeping to showering.
  • Bipolar disorder has many causes, from genetics to life events: There is no single genetic change, life event, or chemical brain imbalance that could be the root cause of bipolar disorder. Most of the time it is either a hormonal imbalance or a traumatic life event can trigger bipolar disorder.
  • Bipolar disorder rarely exists alone: As if a mood disorder that involves deep low depression and manic episodes wasn’t enough to deal with, bipolar disorder can also come hand in hand with mental health illness, like OCD and Anxiety.
  • Everyone’s bipolar disorder is different: no two people have the exact same symptoms and each diagnosis can be very different. The same medication or therapies do not work for all of us. However, there are two main types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I which is characterised by one or more manic episodes that last at least a week; and Bipolar II, which is characterised by more depressive episodes.
  • There are many celebrities that live with bipolar disorder: Celebrities including Demi Lovato, Mariah Carey, Mel Gibson, Russell Brand, amongst so many others are using their voice to beat bipolar disorder stigma.
  • There may be a creativity connection: Did you know that World Bipolar Day occurs on Vincent van Gogh’s birthday? Van Gogh, considered one of the most greatest artists of all time, was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.
  • It is life-threatening, and support is so important: An estimated one in five people diagnosed with bipolar disorder die by suicide. World Bipolar Day is an opportunity to show those living with the day-to-day challenges of this condition they are not alone, they have your support, and there is always hope.

Stigma usually stems from ignorance or fear. For example, when a person tells a friend or an acquaintance that he or she has bipolar disorder, the response might be:

  • “Oh, everybody’s a little bipolar, why are you so special?”
  • “Oh, man, you’re one of them? Gosh, that’s tough.”
  • “You mean you might flip out and start shooting people?”

Unfortunately, for some individuals with bipolar, stigma can cause them to hide their diagnosis or it creates a great deal of shame. As a consequence, many people with bipolar don’t get the right treatment or the support they need to manage their illness.
Living with bipolar disorder may not be easy, but as Van Gogh himself once said: “The beginning is perhaps more difficult than anything else, but keep heart, it will turn out all right.”

I would love to hear from you and your thoughts, email me or follow me on Facebook.

Let’s celebrate our day, beat the social stigma and be proud of who we are!

Ms Bipolar

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