Mental illnesses are incredibly common: nearly one in five adults in the United States lives with a mental illness according to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH). Despite its prevalence, there is still an enormous stigma associated with mental illness. This stigma can have far-reaching consequences, from limiting our understanding of these conditions to interfering with a person's willingness to be treated when needed.
The good news is that we are making some progress in cultural terms stigma. I wrote and edited health content for more than a decade, and it was amazing to see how the mental health conversation developed during that time. Many brave people have publicly told stories about their experiences in mental illness. And as the spa industry has exploded, so too is our cultural understanding that it's important to your health to look after your sanity, and that you need to seek help when you need it.
It is no longer shocking when a celebrity discusses seeing a therapist or living with depression or anxiety. This is partly because we have taken some steps to normalize these things and make it clear that they are incredibly common and that nothing has to be ashamed. Of course, there is still a lot to do, but there are also good reasons to be optimistic. We are going in the right direction.
However, certain mental states still remain largely in the shadow, with an uneven amount of awareness and attention. One such condition is bipolar disorder.
This is in my mind since March 30 is the World Bipolar Day.
The mission of this day is to sensitize bipolar disorder and eliminate social stigma. Bipolar disorder is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses, and the confusion around it remains, even as we make progress in the way we talk about other mental illnesses. Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that, according to NIMH is altered by significant mood and energy shifts. These shifts are referred to as "mood episodes" and may take various forms, although the two main types are manic and depressive episodes. There are several types of bipolar disorder, each of which depends on the symptoms someone experiences, and the severity, duration and combination of these symptoms.
Bipolar disorders are complicated, multi-layered mental illnesses that can significantly affect a person's everyday life. So why is not it the time and space in which anxiety and depression are shared in our mutual conversations about mental health?
Certainly, part of the story here is that anxiety and depression are among the most common mental illnesses. While estimated 31.1 percent of adults in the US will eventually experience an anxiety disorder, an estimated 4.4 percent will experience bipolar disorder. While this is a much smaller slice of our population, it is still millions of people affected by the condition.
Of course, that does not mean that the work to combat stigma associated with anxiety and depression is over. Rather, it is a call to action to apply that energy to other mental illnesses.
In SELF, we strive to talk about the intricacies of mental illness not only on the days of consciousness, but throughout the calendar year. In recent months, we have made a real effort to create more content for a wider range of mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder . This includes talking about the basics (such as important facts that people should know about bipolar disorder ) as well as real stories of people who live with the condition (such as this personal essay on how it works feels like experiencing a psychosis a symptom of some people with bipolar disorder). But the conversation should not end there. We are doing our best to provide truly helpful information to people with bipolar disorder, which means to write about treatment symptoms how to deal with Mood episodes . and how to navigate through drug side effects .
In addition to bipolar disorder, we have also worked to capture other severely stigmatized and misunderstood mental illnesses such as schizophrenia . Borderline Personality Disorder and OCD et al.
I am proud of the work we have done in this area and the stories we have raised and given a platform to do so , But I am also aware that it is just a beginning and that there should and could be so much more, and so many more stories that we should strive for. SELF's goal is to help people feel better. To live up to this mission, we need to do everything we can to raise awareness and remove the stigma all year long – exactly what World Bipolar Day demands.