So I’m on Twitter today and someone says that Natasha Tracy stigmatizes the mentally ill (paraphrasing). Specifically, Bipolar Burble is “one of the most stigmatizing things I’ve ever seen.”
Now, in case you haven’t kept up with completely uncurrent events – Natasha Tracy also has a mental illness called bipolar disorder. And while I’m sure that some people don’t like the way I express that or my opinions on it, to say I’m stigmatizing to those with a mental illness is, well, redonkulous.
So, as it turns out I’m a bit of a mental illness stigma eraser – or at least so sayeth the amazing folks at Didi Hirsch. I’m extremely proud, honoured and humbled to announce that Didi Hirsch will be honouring me at this year’s Erasing the Stigma Leadership Awards in Los Angeles.
The Bipolar Burble blog welcomes Missy Douglas Ph.D, a British artist and writer with bipolar disorder who works under the studio name ucki ood. Her latest project, the 2:365 Art Book, is available now on Kickstarter.
It’s a commonly held belief that there are close links between bipolar disorder and the creative voice. If you just type the words “bipolar” and “artist” into any Internet search engine, the names of Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock and even Michelangelo scream out at you like the painted hero of alleged fellow sufferer, Edvard Munch.
Much as I hesitate to mention myself in the same breath as these four great artists, I do believe this theory to be true. As a girl, I walked the unstable line between anxiety and precociousness. If I was charming and witty, I was also withdrawn, furious and conceited in equal measure. Yet one thing was unerringly constant: the crayon in my hand. Despite various professional flirtations, what I was to become – an artist – was never really in question. By the time I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 19, it didn’t really come as a shock. I was an artist, and all artists were “crazy,” right?
Many of us hear condescending, stigmatizing and prejudicial remarks about bipolar disorder in the workplace – a place where everyone should be treated with respect and as an equal. This lead one reader to ask me this question (reprinted with permission):
I’m not sure how to deal with an incident at work. The company brought in a trainer who when talking about difficult coworkers said “for example have you ever worked with someone who is bipolar.” I spoke with him afterwards and he said he meant to say when unmedicated. I’m disturbed because that seemed very stigmatizing and prejudiced either way yet it was accepted as appropriate . . . I hear how difficult people with bipolar are frequently, like we are 10 to 100 times more difficult than other people just because of our illness. Can you please offer any insight so I can stop feeling like a plague on humanity?
I read this question and I was pretty much incensed.
I’ve written a couple of posts on the worst things to say to a person with bipolar disorder and saying, “Isn’t everyone a little bipolar?” certainly ranks among the worst.
It’s so unbelievably dismissive and invalidating of a medical illness that I can barely fathom it. One very mature person on Facebook simply said, of this statement, “I guess our work fighting stigma isn’t done yet.” That’s an awfully gracious way of putting it.
Isn’t Everyone a Little Bipolar?
The answer to this question is “no.” No, no, no, no, no, a thousand times no. Seriously. To suggest that everyone is a little bit bipolar shows an absolute ignorance of bipolar disorder and of mental illness in general.
Today on the Bipolar Burble blog I’m pleased to offer an interview with Prakash Masand, M.D., the CEO and founder of Global Medical Education (GME). Dr. Masand has been published in several peer-reviewed journals, serves on editorial and review boards for psychiatric journals and is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine. Dr. Masand offers his view on psychiatry, mental illness and stigma.
And make sure to check out the end for your chance to win an iPad!
I get a lot of feedback on my writing. I like feedback. Some of it’s positive, some of it’s negative, but it’s always interesting to know what other people are thinking of my writing.
But one of the types of comments that drives me absolutely nuts goes like this, “I lived with a bipolar person for 20 years and I don’t understand why people with bipolar are so angry,” or they’re “so violent,” or “so manipulative,” or “cheaters,” or whatever.
Here’s what drives me crazy about it – living with someone with bipolar disorder does not make you an expert on people with bipolar disorder; it makes you an expert in one person. Not all of us.
Saturday, after sharing the story of someone who had been through electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). someone named Michele Montour left me this series of tweets (shortened words lengthened to improve readability):
Nothing will ever convince me that this barbaric, antiquated butchery is proper treatment. We know almost nada about the brain. Scientists admit very little known about our brain – even diagnoses are guessed. But zapping it and not REALLY knowing and irreversible!? I think ECT treats us like animals. Repackaged to remove ITS stigma. Let’s just go to the ice-pick lobotomy again! #disgusted
To this, I, admittedly shortly, responded:
That’s a convenient perspective when you’re not dying.
Well, Michele Montour did not like this response and it led to a bit of a diatribe on her part wherein she, among other things, called me a stupid and ignorant bitch.
I thought, perhaps, this stupid bitch could take a moment to explain her opinion.
[Note: I am running a survey on real patients’ experiences with, and perspectives on, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). If you’ve had ECT and want your voice heard, please take the survey here. More detailed information on the ECT survey can be found here.]
If you’re not following the Bipolar Burble blog on Facebook, you likely missed it but we had quite a conversation last night about an image that’s going around Facebook. The image says, “STOP PSYCHIATRIC DRUGGING OF KIDS.” The image is of an innocent, sweet-faced child holding up a sign with the words. The image is attributed to a user on Facebook whose political views are listed as “anarchism.”
Regardless as to who made this image, the image itself has been circulating in, you guessed it, antipsychiatry circles. (I won’t bother drawing lines between antipsychiatry and anarchism, but, you know, I probably could.)
Not surprisingly, one reader with a mentally ill child took offence to this image and all the passing around of it.
This image suggests that:
- Giving psychiatric medication to children constitutes “drugging”
- Parents shouldn’t be giving their children medication
- Children shouldn’t be taking medication
- Parents who give their children medication are doing something wrong
In other words, it stigmatizes both parents of, and mentally ill children themselves.
In other words it spreads negativity, hate and prejudice.
There is a bone of contention in the mental health world. Well, OK, there are many, but one of them is the terms “mental illness” and “mental health.” It seems more politically correct these days to say “mental health” vs. “mental illness.”
For example, people have mental health conferences, not mental illness conferences. There are mental health policies, not mental illness policies. And so on. I guess it’s the glass half-full theory. Mental health is more positive than mental illness (and don’t get me started about the term “behavioural health”).
But there is a problem with this whole rosy-colored view. It completely ostracises and further stigmatizes people with a mental illness.
September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day and I, for one, am thankful. I’m thankful there’s a group called the International Association for Suicide Prevention that is out there promoting World Suicide Prevention Day. I’m thankful that an international group is taking the time to address this incredibly important subject.
Worldwide Suicide Statistics
I won’t bore you with pages of suicide statistics, but when you think about suicide prevention, consider this: