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05 octobre 2008

bipolar disorder

Posted on: Saturday, 4 October 2008, Source: Daily Post; Liverpool


One in four of us will suffer mental ill health during our lifetime and one in 100 will fall victim to bipolar disorder, which can be devastating for patients, their families, friends and carers. It's an issue society can't afford to ignore, yet despite the disturbing figures few of us take steps to better understand mental health issues unless they directly impact on us. Ill-informed rumour, misinterpretation of facts, discrimination at work and public prejudice have all taken an extra toll on patients already carrying heavy emotional burdens.

That's a situation professionals and voluntary workers hope to change. Next Friday is World Mental Health Day, which aims to raise awareness of the facts and debunk some myths surrounding mental health problems. The challenge for mental health organisations is to ensure the true facts are in the public arena, easily accessible, concise and regularly updated, and people suffering mental health problems are not sidelined but diagnosed early and equipped with ongoing support.

Famous sufferers such as exprime minister Winston Churchill, singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel plus comedians Spike Milligan, Paul Merton, Alan Davies and Stephen Fry - who made BBC2 programmes highlighting the condition's pros and cons - have helped bring the issue to the fore over the years. Fry famously fled abroad from a West End production, leaving colleagues in the lurch, during one bout of depression.

Next week publicity campaigns, workshops and advice desks will be open throughout Wales. In Llandudno a pioneering residential self- help course will be hosted at George Hotel. Llandudno mum Gail Silver has been group development officer with Manic Depression Fellowship: the Bipolar Organisation Cymru, for three years.

"It's a bit of a mouthful, I know, and the name of our organisation will be changing soon, but the work we do will be as important as ever. Bipolar disorder is the condition the man in the street has more commonly heard of as manic depression. That's what it used to be officially called and it aptly describes how patients' moods change from the bleakly depressive to feelings of manic joy. We all get highs and lows, every one of us, but in bipolar sufferers the elation of the high periods and gloom of the lows is magnified in intensity a thousand times."

The disorder is brought on by a chemical imbalance in the brain but it can also be triggered by incidents in an individual's life, whether traumatic such as divorce, bereavement or job loss, or more subtle like dietary deficiencies or lack of sleep. Recognising these triggers and their potential impact can be key to helping a patient cope.

"That's why we're organising next weekend's residential workshop. From Friday to Sunday we'll be hosting a selfmanagement training course specially for bipolar disorder sufferers," said Gail. "We can help them detect early changes in routine which could signify the likely onset of a manic episode. We'll look at workplace issues, how to inform employees about the condition, diet tips, management of medication, the opportunity to gain a greater insight into themselves and mix with others in the same situation."

This course is already fully booked but Gail is delighted funding has been made available for another 30 courses in Wales over the next three years. Having worked in the field for 20 years she is passionate about removing the stigma still surrounding mental ill issues.

"There is a desperate need for the public to be more accurately informed, for help mechanisms to be put in place and for everything possible to stop the downward spiral so many patients endure. A condition like bipolar disorder does not just affect a person emotionally, the repercussions affect personal relationships, careers, financial decisions, every aspect of their lives."

For more details call Gail Silver on 01492 877699 or 07841994053, or e-mail

The North Wales office of MDF: Bipolar Organisation Cymru is in Madoc Street, Llandudno

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