Thursday, October 23, 2008

Patient Groups Tackle Stigma Attached To Bipolar Disorder And Other Mental Illnesses With New Tools

I found this great read today and wanted to share it with all of you the readers of this blog. I know from personal experience that group therapy does work and as such is why this entire story is a must read.
Mental illness is one of the last surviving stigmas in today's liberal society. Class, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation, are all off-limits now as reasons for discrimination, social exclusion, jokes or disparaging remarks of any kind. Where these are concerned, we've come a long way in terms of tolerance, fairness and sensitivity to the feelings of others; as a rule, words are chosen carefully so as not to offend and legislation ensures fair treatment. Mental illness, however, despite affecting one in four of us at some point in our lives, still provokes prejudice, especially in the workplace. Job applications frequently ask potential employees to declare treatment for a mental illness. Those who answer truthfully are invariably unsuccessful and those in work who report mental illness can find themselves passed over for promotion. As a result many people with mental illness experience rejection, unemployment and a sense of social isolation through no fault of their own. Fewer than 20 per cent manage to hold down a job, according to patient advocacy groups.

"Living with mental illness is tough enough without having added to the burden of illness, the pain and rejection of stigma," points out John Bowis, a member of the European parliament. But it's not just employers who are to blame. "We all contribute to the stigmatisation of people, who if they had a physical problem, would receive our sympathy and support," he suggests.

Stigma attached to mental illness appears to remain a worldwide problem, affecting people of all cultures. In a recent survey among people with bipolar disorder, conducted globally by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, 88 per cent said they felt stigmatized and socially isolated on account of their condition. Bipolar disorder, characterized by severe and recurring mood changes along a spectrum ranging from overactive, excited behavior (mania) at one end to deep depression at the other, usually requires pharmacological treatment and psychosocial training in behavioral strategies to maintain mental equilibrium. Therapies are available that could potentially help many people who are currently keeping their illness to themselves, struggling on without medication. Treatment would give them a better chance to lead fulfilling lives at work and home. Unfortunately, perceived stigma is a major factor stopping them coming forward for diagnosis and treatment. The issue is a serious one because there is a high risk of suicide among inadequately managed people with bipolar disorder.

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