World Bipolar Day – Erasing the Social Stigma
In an effort to bring more awareness, education and social acceptance to not just the disease, but also those suffering from Bipolar Disorder, a trio of advocacy groups established March 30th as World Bipolar Day.
Now in its second year, organizers chose the birthday of the Dutch artist, Vincent Van Gogh, who is believed to have been afflicted with bipolar disorder, to bring attention to this often misunderstood mental disorder.
While there is more available information on this disorder than ever before, research shows that the public at large has many misconceptions about the disease.
First, it’s not a rare disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 5.7 million adults in the U.S. suffer from bipolar disorder each year.
Second, there is no easy test to determine if an individual is bipolar. A diagnosis can only be made after close observations of a patient’s symptoms, as well as a careful examination of their personal and family history.
Often appearing in a person’s late teens or early adult years, bipolar disorder is a chronic illness that must be managed over a lifetime. There is no cure. This mental disorder creates severe shifts in mood, energy and activity levels. The symptoms of the disease can be so debilitating that daily tasks, such as work, school or maintaining personal and professional relationships, are difficult to near impossible.
What are Common Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
The mood swings most often associated with this disease are depression and manic episodes. While these are both symptoms of bipolar disorder, there are many others. Here’s a list of some them:
- Suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide
- Problems concentrating, making decisions or remembering things
- Racing thoughts and talking extremely fast
- An unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
- Restlessness and irritability
- Extended feelings of emptiness and worry
- A change in sleeping and eating habits
- Impulsive and destructive behavior
- Distracted and restless
The World Health Organization estimates that bipolar disorder is the 6th leading cause of disability around the globe. The International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) and the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD), the three founding organizations of World Bipolar Day, use this day to promote their efforts.
What are the Goals of World Bipolar Day?
- Investigating possible biological causes
- Learning the genetic components of the illness
- Targets for drug treatment
- Better drug treatment
- Improving methods of diagnosis
- Developing strategies for better living with this mental disorder
Another goal of World Bipolar Day, according to its mission statement, is that cities and communities will come together and hold local events. Even small gatherings can raise awareness and reduce the social stigma related to the disorder. Anyone can find more information on World Bipolar Day or announce events on the organization’s Facebook page.
When asked what World Bipolar Day means to her, Muffy Walker, founder and president of IBPF, summed up what many families and patients have been hoping for their whole lives. “…I have a dream that my son, who has lived most of his life with bipolar disorder, will one day live in a nation where he will not be judged by his illness, but rather by the content of his character.”
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