Bipolar Disorder and BIPOC

About Bipolar Disorder and BIPOC

An estimated 46 million people have bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness (Source: Our World in Data). A person with bipolar disorder can go from feeling very, very high (called mania) to feeling very, very low (depression). With proper treatment, people can control these mood swings and lead fulfilling lives. While the rate of bipolar disorder is the same among BIPOC as it is among other Americans, BIPOC are less likely to receive a diagnosis and, therefore, treatment for this illness.

Research indicates that compared to white counterparts, BIPOC individuals are:

  • Less likely to have access to mental health services
  • Less likely to seek out services
  • Less likely to receive needed care
  • More likely to receive poor quality of care
  • More likely to end services prematurely

(Source: Counseling Today)

In addition, it is important to recognize that the Black and Indigenous communities faces distinct sets of challenges from other people of color:

  • Historical dehumanization, oppression, and violence against Black and Indigenous people has evolved into present-day racism — structural, institutional, and individual — leading to a myriad of disparities, including inadequate access to and delivery of care in the health system
  • Black and African American people with mental health conditions, specifically those involving psychosis, are more likely to be sentenced to jail or prison than people of other races
  • Black and African American people are more likely to be misdiagnosed compared to White counterparts with the same symptoms
  • Suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts are rising in Black and African American young adults (ages 18-25)
  • Black and African American teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than White teenagers
  • Native and Indigenous American adults have the highest reported rate of mental illnesses of any single race identifying group
  • The suicide death rate for Native/Indigenous people in America between ages 15-19 is more than double that of non-Hispanic Whites

(Source: Mental Health America)

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe.

Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, some people have their first symptoms during childhood, and some develop them late in life. It is often not recognized as an illness, and people may suffer for years before it is properly diagnosed and treated. Here is good news: bipolar disorder is very treatable, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

  • Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
  • Excessively “high,” overly good, euphoric mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
  • Distractibility, can’t concentrate well
  • Little sleep needed
  • Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers
  • Poor judgment
  • Spending sprees
  • A lasting period of behavior that is different from usual
  • Increased sexual drive
  • Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
  • Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
  • Denial that anything is wrong

A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with three or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for 1 week or longer. If the mood is irritable, four additional symptoms must be present.

  • Poor appetite or eating too much
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Nervousness and worry
  • Loss of interest in and withdrawal from usual activities
  • Feelings of sadness that don’t go away
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Feelings of sadness, worthlessness or guilt
  • Inability to think or concentrate
  • Repeated thoughts of death or suicide
  • Chronic pain or other physical problems that don’t respond to treatment
  • Increased risk-taking behavior, including reckless driving or substance abuse

Bipolar disorder can be treated.

There is hope. People with bipolar disorder can be helped by treatment. Treatment can include:

  • Medication – The doctor may recommend one or more medicines to find what works best.
  • Counseling – Often, psychotherapy or other forms of counseling are used in combination with medication.
  • Peer Support – The advice and support of others who have bipolar disorder can aid recovery.
  • Complementary Care – Some people benefit from exercise, stress reduction classes and other activities to complement their treatment and help them manage their illness.
  • ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy – This is used as a last resort to treat severe bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts. It’s only considered when medication and therapy haven’t worked.

If you think that you or someone you know has bipolar disorder, talk with your primary care physician. However, only a mental health professional can tell if a person has bipolar disorder and properly treat it.



Mental Health Resources for Black and African American Communities

Black Mental Wellness – Black Mental Wellness provides access to evidence-based information and resources about mental health and behavioral health topics from a Black perspective, to highlight and increase the diversity of mental health professionals, and to decrease the mental health stigma in the Black community.

Lee Thompson Young Foundation – Founded in honor the late Lee Thompson Young, this Foundation is is helping to change the story around mental health through its educational awareness training, MIND. The LYT Foundations is especially helpful for parents and families whose children may be struggling with mental health conditions.

Inclusive Therapists – Inclusive Therapists believes all identities in all bodies deserve equal access to quality, culturally responsive care.

Ayana Therapy – Ayana strives to address the strong lack of engagement between minorities and the mental health care industry that arises as a result of cost, stigma, and lack of cultural competency. They achieve this by matching users with licensed professionals that share their unique traits, values, and sensibilities.

Therapy for Queer People of Color – The QPoC Directory was designed to connect you with quality and inclusive services from providers who are passionate and dedicated to meeting your unique needs!

Therapy for Black Men – is a directory to help men of color in their search for a therapist. Using the directory, men can search by therapist location and specialization. Searching by location, the results will include the therapists near you and will display their credentials, location, and the issues they treat.

Black Female Therapists – This platform was created to promote, inspire, and elevate other black female therapists and create a safe space for black mental health. Not only is it a place to connect but also a safe place for black women to discuss their mental health and wellness journey and learn new strategies to live a better life.

The Association for Black Psychologists – Therapist Resource Directory

The Loveland Foundation – Loveland Therapy Fund provides financial assistance to Black women and girls nationally seeking therapy.

Black Emotional and Mental Health – BEAM removes the barriers that Black people experience getting access to or staying connected with emotional health care and healing. They do this through education, training, advocacy and the creative arts.

Sista Afya – Sista Afya’s mission is to sustain the mental wellness of Black women by building community, sharing information, and connecting Black women to quality mental wellness services.

No More Martyrs – No More Martyrs is a mental health awareness campaign committed to building a community of support for Black women with mental health concerns. Inspired by the loss of Karyn Washington, the Founder of For Brown Girls, and the number of nameless and faceless Black women who manage their mental health concerns in silence, the No More Martyrs campaign is a call to action.

Brown Girl Self Care – Brown Girl Self-Care’s mission is to provide revolutionary self-care resources and community to support Black women as they center their health and healing.

The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation: This organization is working to change the perception of mental illness in the African-American community by encouraging people to get the help they need; focuses on stigma/selfstigma reduction and building trust between Black people and the mental health field. See their directory of mental health providers and programs that serve the Black community.


Mental Health Resources for Latinx/Hispanic Communities

Therapy for Latinx: A national mental health resource for the Latinx community; provides resources for Latinx community to heal, thrive, and become advocates for their own mental health. Also includes a therapist directory.

Latinx Therapy: An organization working to break the stigma of mental health related to the Latinx community; learn self-help techniques, how to support self & others.

The Focus on You: Self-care, mental health, and an inspirational blog run by a Latina therapist.


Mental Health Resources for Asian American/Pacific Islander Communities

Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA): An organization dedicated to advancing the mental health and wellbeing of Asian American communities through research, professional practice, education, and policy.

Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum: Focused on improving the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Sign up for a weekly digital “community care package” which includes inspirational stories, resources in a variety of languages, tools for adjusting and managing mental health, and a platform to share your story/connect with others.

Asian American Health Initiative: An organization responding to the health needs of Asian Americans. Resources are provided in 5 different languages on a variety of topics.


Mental Health Resources for Native and Indigenous Communities

Indigenous Story Studio: A Canadian organization that creates illustrations, posters, videos, and comic books on health and social issues for youth.

One Sky Center – The American Indian/Alaska Native National Resource Center for Health, Education, and Research: This group is working to improve prevention and treatment of mental health and substance use problems and services among Native people. There are a number of downloadable resources, of particular note is their Guide to Suicide Prevention.

WeRNative: A comprehensive health resource for Native youth by Native youth, promoting holistic health and positive growth in local communities and the nation at large


Resources provided by Mental Health America and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

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