March 30th is a day dedicated to spreading awareness and acceptance of Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorder is a lifelong mental illness frequently categorised by sudden and extreme changes in mood, typically shifting between intense episodes of mania and depression. The disorder also affects day-to-day life by causing shifts in activity levels, energy, behaviour, and appetite, among other aspects of life. Approximately 1.3% of the Australian population has Bipolar. Yet despite this, the disorder still remains highly stigmatised and misinformed in the public eye.
Phrases used in everyday speech such as, “She’s so bipolar” or “My mum is in such a bipolar mood today”, can lead to a stigmatised misunderstanding that Bipolar Disorder simply means having mood swings or being grumpy. Such hyperbole is often used, particularly amongst young people. Others that take the place of common words can include being “depressed”, having “OCD”, or being "psychotic”. Such exaggerations can be harmful for those living with the legitimate condition. Similarly, “Bipolar” used lightly in the place of “fickle” or “in a bad mood” is unhelpful, and may perpetuate stereotypes. It’s not uncommon for young people to genuinely believe that Bipolar is simply just mood swings. In raising awareness about Bipolar Disorder and in order to help those living with the mental illness, the first step is for this and other stigmas to be recognized, and cast away.
World Bipolar Day has the goal of ending the stigma of Bipolar, as well as bringing global awareness to the mental illness: educating, discussing, supporting, and spreading empathy. It’s recognised on the 30th of March, which was the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who is widely believed to have had Bipolar Disorder. Celebrities such as Demi Lovato, Mary Lambert and Carrie Fisher have spoken about their own experiences living with Bipolar Disorder, and World Bipolar Day provides the opportunity for their voices to be amplified, along with others from around the world. It lets those with the disorder connect with one another and be heard. The day’s ultimate goal is acceptance towards the disorder, and raising funding for research, medication, and other costs associated with Bipolar Disorder. With 60 million people living with Bipolar worldwide, it’s an important step in creating a more accepting society, globally.
With the pandemic this year, most World Bipolar Day events will be held online, through webinars, blogs, social media, livestreams, virtual conversations and short videos. Local events may be held in person in line with social distancing requirements in your area. If you are thinking of attending or hosting an event to celebrate, fundraise, or raise awareness for World Bipolar Day, visit their event website for more information.
It is important that we as a community take this opportunity to educate ourselves on Bipolar Disorder, so we can actively dispute stigma and misinformation, and support those who live with the mental illness. If we all work together, we can make society a more accepting, educated and empathetic place. For more information about World Bipolar Day, visit their official website. For more information about Bipolar Disorder, visit Bipolar Australia.
At Northside Psychology, we offer assessments for a wide range of mental health issues across the lifespan, as well as offer support and guidance for living with those conditions.
by Poppy Kirwan, Northside Psychology Staff writer.