Bipolar Is an Invisible Illness — Let’s Make It Visible

Bipolar Is an Invisible Illness — Let’s Make It Visible

Many people have made the point bipolar disorder is an invisible illness. That’s one of the things about it that makes it so frustrating. People can’t see bipolar disorder; it isn’t part of their reality; so, obviously, it isn’t important or life-altering. Some people take this to the conclusion of suggesting bipolar disorder doesn’t really exist at all. But we know bipolar disorder is real. We know something doesn’t have to be outwardly visible, or even visible under a microscope, to be real. Bipolar disorder may be an inherently invisible illness but let’s do what we can to make it visible. Let’s stand up for what we can’t see.

Healthline’s #MakeItVisible Campaign

I’m pleased to be a part of this month’s #MakeItVisible campaign with HealthLine. HealthLine has been in the business of supporting those with illnesses for a long time and right now their focus is on invisible illnesses or, more specifically, pain illnesses. (And if you ask me, the invisible bipolar disorder is a chronic pain condition no matter how you slice it.)

HealthLine wants you to share your story and help the world understand that you might be battling an illness even though you don’t “look sick.” HealthLine wants you to tag invisible illness pictures and share invisible illness stories both through their website and through social media. See here for how to contact HealthLine and share your story.

But, perhaps the best thing about the #MakeItVisible campaign is that for every photo you share tagged with #MakeItVisible, HealthLine will donate $5.00 to the United States Pain Foundation.

That’s right, just by bringing light onto a subject on which most of us feel so passionately, you can help someone in need, not only through your voice but also through the donation HealthLine will be making. (And yes, I am considered a Thought Leader in this area.)

Bipolar, and all mental illnesses, are invisible illnesses. People sometimes don't take them seriously. Let's stand up and make bipolar visible. #MakeItVisibleThe Invisible Illness of Bipolar Disorder

When it comes to research funding, serious mental illnesses like bipolar disorder are at the bottom of the pack. It seems that those who hold the purse strings think we don’t deserve the same kind of funding other illnesses. In 2018:

  • Bipolar disorder will receive $75 million* in funding and it has a prevalence of about 2% of the population. That’s about $2.50 per sick person and $100.37 per death.** (11% of people die of this illness.)
  • Prostate cancer will receive $215 million in funding and has a prevalence of about 2.2%. That works out to about $28.77 per sick person and $1438.69 per death. (About 2% of people with this illness die of it in 10 years.)
  • Liver disease will receive $509 million in funding and affects about 1.6% of the population. That works about to about $93.67 per sick person and $9366.56 per death. (About 0.0001% of people with this illness die from it.)
  • Brain cancer will receive $260 million in funding and has a prevalence of about 0.1%. That’s about $765.52 per sick person. (Survival rates for this illness vary dramatically depending on the type of brain cancer.)

(“Dietary supplements” gets $241 million, by the way, and they address no disease whatsoever.)

Are people with liver disease 93% more valuable than we are? I’m sure they’re lovely people but I would have to say not.

I’m not saying that cancers or other illnesses do not deserve funding. I’m not even saying they don’t deserve the funding they get – maybe they do – but what I am saying is that those of us invisible, serious mental illnesses are suffering because of it. According to the numbers, our lives are actually worth less. And it’s because we’re crazy, government-money-sucking, non-contributing members of society. Except, of course, that we’re not. We’re just like everyone else. People with invisible illnesses have the same worth as everyone else, and our illnesses are just as severe and deserve the same respect.

Why Making Invisible Illnesses Like Bipolar Disorder Matters


Invisible illnesses kill people and destroy lives every day. It’s really that simple. We’re the people that fall without a sound because no one knew we were sick. We’re the ones that are overlooked because we don’t “look” sick. We’re the ones that aren’t important because no one can see our suffering.

But suffering you do not know about and aren’t acquainted with is just as painful as suffering that hits close to home.

And we need this to be understood. We need people to know that a bipolar crisis is like a compound fracture – it needs immediate and emergent treatment. The bone really is sticking out of our legs, you just can’t see it.

So join me please and help #MakeItVisisble a huge success. Share your story. Share an image of what invisible illness really looks like and tag it. And make HealthLine has to give lots of money to the United States Pain Foundation.

Check out the #MakeItVisible Campaign here.

* Funding statistics provided by National Institutes of Health (NIH).

** This assumes a population of the US of 339,639,000, as estimated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Note: While I do have a working relationship with HealthLine, they have not paid anything for this post.

Banner image by Flickr user Abhijit Bhaduri.

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About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

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