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2013 Essay Winners

Parag Kappor

It is Always a War

Bipolar disorder is a challenge faced by people around the world. The stigma has already ruined too many lives. A great passage from the novel Ender’s Game, perfectly describes the situation:

There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do… Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong… From now on the enemy is more clever than you. From now on the enemy is stronger than you. (Card, 206 – 207)

In any campaign of struggle; the words price, popularity, and perception are always lingering. These truths represent the battles that need to be won by 2020 in order to overcome our relentless foe.

Inexpensive ways to combat stigma already exist. We only have to look at social media to save the day. Facebook, Twitter, and myriad others allow for instant information exchange. Any person, group or organization can use these tools to sustain the fight against stigma. The Internet is an educational tool. With the incredible rise in usage of the Web and Cloud enabled devices, it is clear where the most influential theatre of conflict lies. The best part about this strategic asset is that it is practically unlimited and free to use.

Right now the prevailing perceptions are the ones that carry the images of the people that are losing to bipolar disorder. It will be hard to gain traction on our home front – family members, lost friends, and employers. Heroes need to be recognized to rally support. Ted Turner, a billionaire philanthropist is an example of someone driven to succeed. His bipolar disorder did intervene at times, but he still carried on forward. It should be clear as day that persons with bipolar disorder are no less capable in any way than persons who do not. Stigma is powerless unless you allow it to affect you.

Perceptions will be the most difficult to change. However, any children born after the year 1990 hold promise. Cleverer than those that came in the past, they are the key to victory. It starts with education – generation y readily accepts it. Support has to be given to families around the world, so they can afford to send their kids to good schools and so they can participate in extracurricular activities. It is about creating an environment where positive attitudes thrive. For young adolescents, mental health should be added as a component in Health/Fitness classes. Stigma would have been largely eliminated far earlier if these steps had been taken.

The resurgence is already happening. These three convergent tactics will change the game. Modern medicine; and the rise of support groups, allows for an army that can finally corner stigma on all fronts. The future of stigma will be decided by the one great effort that unites us for a cause. This constant never changes. That is why it is called a war.

Deirdre Zoe

Bipolar disorder is a brain illness that causes unusual fluctuations in a person’s mood (Weinreb, 2013). However, as Weinreb notes the mood fluctuations that bipolar sufferers experience are sometimes so severe that it can impact their work performance, school activities or day to day living. But the good news is that while the illness is chronic, bipolar disorder can be treated so that persons with the disorder can lead healthy, happy lives and be the best that they can.

The problem is that persons diagnosed with mental illness including bipolar disorder are usually fearful of exposing their illness because they feel they might be rejected. This is a form of stigmatization. According the Mayo Clinic‘s website, stigma is when someone is judged based on a personal trait such as having bipolar disorder. The fear of stigma can actually prevent persons suffering with the illness from receiving treatment which can worsen their situation. Therefore, it is extremely critical that everyone works together to eliminate all forms of stigma towards persons with bipolar disorder.

According to Lindon (2011), there are two types of stigma which are public stigma and self-stigma. Public stigma involves the views of the public towards, in this case, the person with bipolar disorder. Additionally, self-stigma is where the person with the illness believes the negative views about persons with the illness and as a result suffers from low self-esteem and despair. A person who suffers from both types of stigma would undoubtedly be unable to cope with the situation unless there is professional help and loved ones around to show their support.

Today, more persons are being open about suffering with bipolar disorder because in the workplace, human resource managers are learning to deal with such cases in a professional manner and are teaching their workers how to handle situations involving persons who have the illness. Recently, a well-known actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones, revealed that she has bipolar disorder and was seeking treatment for it. Furthermore, an example of a school program that assists school students in Germany with mental illness is called “Crazy? So what!” The aim of this programme has been to reduce preconceptions towards people with mental illness by providing additional information on the subject. Those who suffer from mental illness are also afforded the opportunity to speak out about it and have the assistance of counsellors. Thus far, the programme has been so successful that it is being expanded to other age groups.

With more groups like this and the International Bipolar Foundation working towards promoting research in mental illness including bipolar disorder, it is hoped that there would be a reduction and possible elimination of bipolar disorder in the future. Indeed, as persons around the globe educate themselves about bipolar disorder through opportunities like this essay contest by the International Bipolar Foundation, certainly by 2020 the stigma associated with the illness would have been a thing of the past.