Did you know that 25% of Americans will suffer a diagnosable mental illness this year?  That's 1 in 4 people!  Mental illness disables the lives of nearly 60 million Americans each year, making it the leading disability for people aged 15 to 44. In addition, 4.4% of our population is diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

 

Millions of people suffer from physical disabilities in this country every day – people walking with canes and walkers, in wheel chairs, on oxygen, without hair from cancer treatments, etc.  But these are disabilities you can see.

 

Bipolar disorder is one of those 'leading causes of disability' referred to in the beginning of this article, but it is a hidden disability.  That's why so many people are undiagnosed with bipolar disorder and unmedicated for it.  And those statistics are even scarier:  Of those untreated and unmedicated people with bipolar disorder, 1 in 5 will probably kill themselves.

 

More than 30,000 people with mental illness will commit suicide, and for each of those, another 8 to 25 will attempt suicide.  The sad fact is that these people do not have to die.  At least some of their lives can be saved by medication.

 

Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., is a professor in the department of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-director of its Mood Disorder Center.  She is one of the leading experts in the field of bipolar disorder, and she believes the problem is that many patients with bipolar disorder are not compliant with their medications even after they are diagnosed. 

 

She says that upwards of 50% of them don't want to give up the euphoria of their manic state.  She has cited studies that show suicide among patients with bipolar disorder overall to be 15 to 25 times higher than in the general population, and 70 to 80 times higher among younger patients.

 

There is hope for this hidden disability, however.  Jamison and some of her colleagues did a study and found that patients with bipolar disorder on combined treatment using psychotherapy with medication were more likely to stay on their medication and less likely to relapse.  Their findings have since been confirmed by numerous studies.