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November 21, 2005
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Commentary: Stigma can prevent much-needed mental help
Morning Edition (NPR); 11/18/2005; STEVE INSKEEP
Host: STEVE INSKEEP
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Commentator Bebe Moore Campbell has learned a lot about the stigma of mental illness.
BEBE MOORE CAMPBELL:
A few years ago, a member of my family began to speak and behave in a bizarre manner. He stayed awake for days, talked non-stop and spent money recklessly. I was his passenger when he drove close to 100 miles an hour on the freeway. He laughed wildly as he dodged traffic, veered in and out of lanes and ignored my pleas to slow down. He seemed oblivious to the danger. I waited for things to return to normal, but they didn't.
Gradually, my relative became psychotic and violent. One night, I had to call 911 and watch the police drive him to a psychiatric facility. The doctor diagnosed bipolar disorder, a condition characterized by extreme mood swings. The illness became our family's deep, dark secret. Stigma had a hold on us, and stigma is as hard to control as bipolar disorder. `There's nothing wrong with me,' my relative declared. It was shame that made him deny the problem and refuse treatment.
Many overwhelmed families can recount tales of calling 911 because of a psychiatric emergency only to have the ill person appear normal when police arrived. Once police appeared at my door moments after my relative had been raging and threatening, but as soon as he saw them, he went into normal mode. Seeing no one who was a danger to himself or others, lacking the criteria to impose a 72-hour hold in a psychiatric facility, the police left. And my loved one's treatment was delayed once again.
The word `crazy' relegates people to a world of semi-human. My relative didn't want to live there. No one does. Stigma is one of the main reasons why people with mental-health problems don't seek treatment or take their medication. People of color, particularly African-Americans, feel the stigma more keenly. In a race-conscious society, some don't want to be perceived as having yet another deficit. Others find it hard to trust medical personnel who don't seem to understand their culture. Some studies show that Latinos and African-Americans are much more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than whites, even though the illness occurs in all races at the same rate. The psychiatric community must address inequities in treatment.
Once my loved one accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can't we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African-Americans. The message must go on billboards and in radio and TV public service announcements. It must be preached from pulpits and discussed in community forums. It's not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.
INSKEEP: Commentary from Bebe Moore Campbell, the author of "72 Hour Hold."
You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
Content and Programming copyright ę 2005 National Public Radio, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The Warning Signs Of An Impending Bipolar Disorder Manic Episode
Bipolar disorder - as the name implies - involves two distinct set of symptoms. One set throws the individual down into the depths of a massive depression. The other places the individual who suffers with bipolar disorder at the top of a peak manic episode.
Most everyone can eventually recognize the warning signs of an impending depressive episode related to bipolar disorder. More likely than not, individuals with bipolar disorder try very hard to avoid it.
However, for many individuals with bipolar disorder, it's more difficult to recognize the signs of an impending manic episode. After all, a manic episode of bipolar disorder can be mistaken in some cases - especially in the very early formation -- for the lifting of the corresponding mood swing of the depression.
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