Stigma and discrimination in people having a mood disorder.

One of the main aims I have with this website is to share knowledge about bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses to everyone interested. In Sweden, and most likely in other countries, there are many predjudice surrounding mental illnesses. Predjudice are born out of lack of knowledge and fear of the unknown.

It is nor strange or surprising that people in general are lacking in knowledge about mental illnesses. I believe that ignorance could be fixed if we would talk and learn about mental illnesses in school. Children and teens should in elementary school learn about what kind of mental illnesses and neuropsychiatric disorder a person can have. They should know that no one is immune against being inflicted of, for example, depression. They should be taught and made aware that people having, for example, bipolar disorder or ADHD are normal people.

Not even us having a mental illness are free from having predjudices. I remember what a hard time I had to accept my bipolar diagnosis in the beginning. I thought that having  BP meant that I was "truly insane" or crazy. Images from the movie "One flew over the cuckoo´s nest" ( swedish title "Gökboet" ) flashed before me. By the way, a fantastic movie! I was certain my life as I knew it was over. What employer would give me, an insane person, a job? What woman could love me, a freak?

Today, I can feel ashamed when thinking how ignorant and prejudiced I were...

Since then I have meet many people having bipolar disorder, other mental illnesses and neuropychiatric disorders. All of them are intelligent - some of them very intelligent - competent, kind and humorous people. Needless to say they and I have our flaws and "sun spots" like everyone else.

I believe one very important effect of society having better knowledge and understanding about mental illness and neuropsychiatric disorders, is that more people would get the courage to seek help. Too many people having some kind of mental health issue are suffering alone and in secret. Because they are a afraid and worried that people would look at them with different eyes if people knew about the mental health issue.

Another positive effect, I believe, would be that employers would be more inclined to hire individuals having some kind of mental illness or neuropsychiatric disorder. Because if employers knew that someone having, for instance bipolar disorder, can be a very driven and productive force at the work place the employer would not be so hesitate to hire someone with BP. An individual having BP and having a hypomanic episod can be tremendously productive due to the high energy level and feeling on top of the world. In a hypomanic state nothing is impossible and you can come up with creative solutions to problems.

So, better knowledge about and understanding of mental health problems could be very beneficial on both the individual and collective level.

The attached link is a study done on how people having a mood disorder ( bipolar, major depressive disorder ) are experience stigma and discrimination in different ways and in different contexts. It is a quite discourageing read, but it also shows how important it is for all of us to have a better knowledge about these mental disorders.

All the best to you and take care of yourself and others :)

Janne Tikkanen