Mental Health Awareness Month: Bipolar disorder is manageable

05734fd8 4766 5178 a6fd 3e45191b392c - Mental Health Awareness Month: Bipolar disorder is manageable

October has been declared Mental Health Awareness Month with the objective of not only educating the public about mental health but also to reduce the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness are often subjected to.

When *Sisanda Mazibuko first noted her mother’s behaviour change, she never knew that it would lead to her mother being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her family struggling to make peace with it.

“My mom is quiet a person and she enjoys her own company. But we became alarmed when she started speaking to herself, laughing alone and having unexplainable anger episodes,” says Mazibuko.

After a few consultations with family and friends, Mazibuko and her siblings took their mother to a psychiatric hospital, which she admits was a tough one to come to terms with. “My family had to deal with the stigma of having a ‘crazy’ person and dealing with the shame of having a mentally ill family member while trying to get help for my mother. It was a hard time because it was all new to us and the whole experience was made even harder by stigmatisation,” says Mazibuko.

But it is at the hospital that her mother got diagnosed with bipolar disorder and started managing her mental illness, shares Mazibuko.

October has been declared Mental Health Awareness Month with the objective of not only educating the public about mental health but also to reduce the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness are often subjected to.

People like Mazibuko benefit from this awareness month that helps many families to understand mental health better, be able to speak, and support family members who are diagnosed with a mental health illness.

According to South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADG), bipolar disorder affects up to one percent of the population in South Africa – which sounds like a low number but when you take in consideration that there are over 56 million people in SA, it’s a large number.

The group says that people living with bipolar disorder have extreme mood swings, from a high that feels like you are on top of the world, to a very deep depression, that impacts their daily functioning including work, home and relationships.

Bipolar Disorder is more than just mood swings. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of misinformation about bipolar disorder, especially the stigma which prevents a lot of people from seeking help or disclosing their diagnosis, says SADAG.

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not known, but it is believed to be a combination of biochemical, genetic, and psychological factors, according to SADAG.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), half of all mental health illnesses begin around the age of 14, with most cases going undetected and untreated. Worryingly, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29 year olds.

The WHO says mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living, and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection, and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities and societies throughout the world.

The organisation explains that multiple social, psychological, and biological factors determine the level of mental health of a person at any point in time. For example, violence and persistent socio-economic pressures are recognised as risks to mental health. The clearest evidence is associated with sexual violence.

Poor mental health is also associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill-health, and human rights violations.

If you recognise any symptoms in yourself or a loved one, consult your local health-care provider, who may refer you to a mental health specialist who will be able to help with a diagnosis and treatment.

* Not her real name

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