Since tomorrow is also Good Friday and I’ll be going “off the grid” for the day, I thought I’d mention the fact that the fifth annual World Bipolar Day will be taking place. In past years I’ve discussed the background and general purposes of the celebration, so if you’re a new reader you can always check the archives for an explanation. But for those of you who know about this event, I invite you to take a few moments out of your day to think about how much we’ve gained by bringing attention to our illness, and how far we have yet to go.
I personally am pleased with the progress we’re making. Five years after the inaugural World Bipolar Day, people are a little less afraid to talk about it, and about mental illness in general. Even bipolar 1 has gone mainstream. There’s a commercial for a new antipsychotic medication named Vraylar, featuring a busy woman who manages manic episodes on top of her office job and family. Now, as you know I have my misgivings about drug advertising on TV, but this is groundbreaking in that it’s the first one where mania is discussed, instead of being tucked away in the dark like a dirty secret. All the other ads for bipolar meds only talk about depression. Vraylar is recommended “because you’re more than just your bipolar 1”. Nice catchphrase. And I see it as a good sign that the illness—my illness—is being normalized. It’s about time!
Of course, the increased openness is a double-edged sword, as the recent focus on mental health matters shows. Far too many members of the public are willing to believe that psychiatric conditions are the cause of so much of the violence we’re seeing these days. Too many politicians are buying into the idea that long-term institutional care is the answer, but they have also proven themselves unwilling to put funding into the mental health system for more psychiatrists, nurses, and services. In fact, the word is that Congress is going to consider cuts to Social Security Disability and Medicare, which would be disastrous for folks like me who depend on these programs to stay well (and alive).
Even so, the fact that society is finally talking about mental health is a GOOD thing. For too long it was like the crazy aunt in the attic: we knew it was there, but it was much easier to ignore it than bring it into the living room and deal with it.
So on this World Bipolar Day, let us celebrate the people of the bipolar community and continue to raise awareness and acceptance of the disorder. Let us lift each other up and be proud of our accomplishments in the world. And let us lead the way in teaching others how we need and want to be treated. WINNING!