The noble and satisfying desire to help others in need must extend to those afflicted with clinical mood disorders. These include anxiety, bipolar disorder, and clinical depression. Because one out of six Americans suffers some form(s) of mental illness, there are many interpersonal, financial and quality-of-life reasons for family and friends to help them. Because mental patients often feel “the outside world” cannot understand their pain, they often turn to publications written by both unknown and famous mental patients.
Unfortunately, most memoirs of the famous tend to only glance at the mood disorders and only graze the surface of underlying medical issues; they emphasize the wrong things, telling stories about their families, other luminaries and Hollywood, sports, or political intrigues. Books written by the average sufferer of manic-depression contain more detailed descriptions of their episodes and better weave them into their life stories.
The little talked-about and often misunderstood epidemic of mood disorders is sweeping across America. Today’s statistics are chilling: Clinical depression is the number one reason people go to see their doctors and the class of psychotropic drugs prescribed is second only to that of analgesics (pain killers). Bipolar disorder is the second-highest reason for U.S. disability awards. Unemployment is 50% higher for those with mood disorders than that of the general population. Women suffer clinical depression twice as much as men do. The mood disorder suicide rate is 33% when a person is left untreated; it is 20% when properly treated. And 90% of all suicides result from clinical depression. Only 33% of the clinically depressed receive treatment. Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally and 83% of cases are severe-yet 37 % neither recognize nor admit to suffering the condition. Only 49% of bipolar individuals receive treatment.
As a bipolar mental patient and burn victim, I can attest to the fact that psychic pain often exceeds that of physical pain, both in intensity and duration. Utter hopelessness and suicidality transcend verbal description. There is no cure for mood disorders, no “dipstick” with which to test the brain’s neurotransmitter levels that regulate the human feelings and emotions that drive our aberrant behaviors. Exotic and expensive medications and psychotherapy are the primary means for mitigating the pain and skewed behaviors experienced by those of us saddled with mood disorders. The doctor-patient goal is to reduce the frequency, intensity and duration of bipolar and clinically depressive episodes, and to encourage the patient to reform old habits into positive, healthy and beneficial lifestyles.
Today the social stigma of mental illness remains the equivalent of unwed mothers before the 1960s: “hush, hush and put them away.” And deep down inside the general public there is that private feeling of “there but for the grace of God I go.” That must end-there are too many of us to ignore any longer. One partially effective pain relief method for aiding mood disorder patients is peer interaction and comfort found in either physical or cyber discussion and support groups. Another means of relief is to share the stories of other mood disorder sufferers.
Unlike live groups, there can be no accidental or intentional personal attacks or judgmental assessments when reading about mood disorders. Stories written by mental patient peers can help ease the pain for those who suffer mood disorders, both manic and depressive episodes, by entertaining and educating the reader. There is wonderful relief for patients just to know there are others who suffer the exact same malady as they do. A search through a library or bookstore psychology/manic-depression category yields many books that bring understanding, hope, help and healing for sufferers of bipolar disorder and clinical depression, and their families and friends.