I’m sure all of you out there who suffer from a mental illness will agree that it’s hard enough to cope, fight stigma, etc. on a good day. To add another level of complexity to the mire, we also tend to heavily stigmatize ourselves. So now, let’s add insult to injury. In recent months I’ve seen a disturbing trend in the media. It seems that a growing number of individuals are attempting to use Bipolar Disorder as the latest personality accessory or as a trumped-up excuse to validate criminal behavior.
Criminals try to play the mental illness card all the time. Sometimes it’s valid. So, why am I on a rant? In my non-scientific sample reading of newspapers articles, the number of people who are using Bipolar specifically as a convenient get out of jail free card for their violent crimes seems to be on the rise. Do people in a manic state commit violent crimes? Yes, on rare occasions they do. However, overall the statistics show Bipolar people who are not substance abusers are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than the perpetrator of one. In the last two weeks I’ve read no less than three newspaper articles where purps were claiming a bout of Bipolar only – no other mental illness or substance abuse – caused them to misbehave very badly. My personal favorite was the lad who proclaimed to be self-diagnosed. However, all three individuals were professionally evaluated and deemed to suffer from no mental illness whatsoever. (Oh wait! Here’s a fourth. But, he tried to throw in the paranoid schizophrenia card as well.) Nice try, fellas. Bang the gavel. Next!
Ah, Celebrities. Celebrity is very powerful in this culture. Celebrity is the royalty of the 20th/21st century. If a Celebrity uses a certain product or claims to have a certain abnormality, let’s face it. The product and abnormality will be paid attention to by the media and the public for some time. Do I believe the recent rash of celebs who claim to have BP truly are sufferers? No. Statistically it cannot be the case. I believe a lot of it is no more than opportunistic drivel by bad publicists.
Now I’ve done it. I’ve probably angered a whole slew of you. “But all of this Bipolar talk raises awareness!” Well, it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand there are people who only found the courage to see a shrink after an event like CZJ’s diagnosis went public (Catherine was outed, BTW, she did NOT go public herself.) Kudos to those who did. Let’s be honest, though – and this is what I’m railing against. It is very hard for true BP sufferers to have the world take us seriously and work against stigma when Bipolar is used as a status symbol, tabloid headline fodder and the excuse-of-the-moment for bad and criminal behavior.
So, to everyone who is riding the recent Bipolar wave…to fellow sufferers who are trying to fight stigma, raise awareness and form a friendly, supportive community – go and continue to fight the good fight. I’m behind you 110 percent. To the rest of you who are using Bipolar as an accessory and an excuse? I have no words for you. Shame. Go stand in the corner.