Bipolar Disorder: Simplification the Answer?

Not only does Bipolar Disorder along with other mental illnesses have a stigma, but Bipolar Disorder can reduce a person’s life expectancy by 9 to 20 years, schizophrenia 10 to 20 years, and 9 to 24 years in heavy drug use/addiction.¹ Ironically, even though society looks down on drug addicts, there is generally more help and acceptance for them than a person with a mental disorder. To combat the stigma and come to a more educated society on mental health in all, should we try to simplify the materials out there to gain traction against the stigma?

Many studies indicate a 15% rate of suicide amongst individuals with bipolar disorder. This rate is about 30 times higher than than that of the general population. The rate of suicides amongst bipolar people is even higher than that for schizophrenics. Some studies have come up with rates as high as 30%-50%.²

The above quote is just on bipolar suicides, that is only a piece of the pie in the life expectancy of Bipolar individuals.

“Dr Seena Fazel of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University said: ‘We found that many mental health diagnoses are associated with a drop in life expectancy as great as that associated with smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day.

‘There are likely to be many reasons for this. High-risk behaviors are common in psychiatric patients, especially drug and alcohol abuse, and they are more likely to die by suicide. The stigma surrounding mental health may mean people aren’t treated as well for physical health problems when they do see a doctor.'”¹

I once had a medical professional dismiss my pain after endometrial surgery and right in front of me said to a nurse, “She’s bipolar so you don’t need any information.”

Mind you, I didn’t take narcotic pain killers, nor did I want them – personally I have always been against taking medication which is why it’s so hard for me to be compliant as a Bipolar patient.

I feel though if we simplify the information, we could begin to make progress.

An example:

  1. Bipolar disorder is a physical flaw in the chemical makeup of the brain.
  2. There are successful treatments that do not cure, but can allow the patient to have and live a healthy life.
  3. If a healthy-minded person needs help with a coworker, friend, or loved one who is suffering, proper course of actions should be in place.
  4. We are not our conditions. We are human.
  5. Get educated to understand the illness to best be prepared for what it may cause and how that person with the illness feels.

It’s one thing to bring awareness, I feel it’s time we educate what that awareness should entail.


¹Bipolar Suicides are Common but Preventable

²Many mental illnesses reduce life expectancy more than heavy smoking

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