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To the Journalists Writing About Bipolar Disorder

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Dear journalists writing about mental illnesses,

I recently read an article in a UK newspaper about Sinead O’Connor and her battle with bipolar disorder. The word “battle” is commonly used to refer to what it is like to live with this illness. For me, this word couldn’t be more accurate. It is a constant, unpredictable battle that sometimes makes you feel as though you are always one step behind and can’t quite catch up.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

The author described people who have bipolar disorder as being “utterly draining” to those around them. I’m not sure if the author thinks that people with mental illnesses don’t read newspapers, but they do. I sat, eight months after my diagnosis, reading that article and my heart broke. It broke for myself, intensifying my paranoia around my feelings for my family and friends and whether or not they could love me anymore or see me in the same light with my new diagnosis.

My heart also broke for all the other people out the struggling with bipolar disorder that might have read that article, and the affect it would potentially have on them. With this mental illness, it can often feel as though your thoughts and actions are not your own, and sometimes certain triggers can lead to depressive and manic episodes. Journalists absolutely need to consider the nature in which they write these articles.

Who is your target audience?

Who will read what you write?

How might your words make someone who is vulnerable feel?

The majority of the article spoke in a very generic manner about bipolar disorder. There was no acknowledgement of the different types including: type I, type II and cyclothymia. The article judged and condemned Sinead O’ Connor for the way she has handled her “battle.” Journalists, you don’t know the medication she takes, the treatment she is undergoing or the people she is speaking to.

Please, use your platform to support us. I will never truly be able to verbalize the difficulty that I have faced in fighting this “battle.” Like all battles, sometimes you have good days. You make progress and experience success. On other days you have setbacks, you think you’ve failed for good. Articles that criticize people with mental illness do nothing to help society be more forward thinking and open. They can also be upsetting and potentially dangerous for those in a particular emotional state.

Dear author, and any other journalists who chooses to write about mental illness with a very limited subject knowledge, take the following advice: be careful, research and think about who is reading your article. Sinead O’Connor will always have bipolar disorder, so lets not judge her on her bad days. Lets come together and show support, positivity and understanding. Use your platform for good! Promote the various charities out there that can help develop your own understanding of bipolar affective disorder and other mental illnesses.

With love and understanding always.

Thinkstock photo via Creatas Images

Originally published: September 15, 2017
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