Charity Bipolar UK is marking its 30th anniversary with a new publication, but has warned that, while huge progress has been made in increasing awareness and understanding of the condition since 1983, much still needs to be done to ensure there is parity with physical conditions.
Bipolar UK has published 30 Years of Bipolar, which focuses on the life experiences of 30 individuals, each of whom received a diagnosis for bipolar during one of the past 30 years. Their stories reflect a mixture of inspiration, hope and despair and highlight the progress that has been made in diagnosis, treatment and public attitudes but also the huge challenges that remain.
More than three million people are affected by bipolar in the UK, but it still takes an average of more than 10 and a half years to receive a correct diagnosis. Bipolar remains one of the main causes of lost years of life and health for 15 to 44-year-olds. The charity adds that, compared to other illnesses that have a lesser impact, treatment of bipolar is still hampered by misunderstanding and severe stigma.
Bipolar UK was formed in 1983 as the Manic Depressive Fellowship with the aim of providing support to people with the condition and improving public awareness and understanding of it. Today, Bipolar UK provides services to more than 65,000 individuals and families a year. The charity says demand for its services and support is accelerating at an unprecedented pace.
Suzanne Hudson, Bipolar UK’s chief executive, said: “In many regards awareness and understanding of what is now known as bipolar has improved, but as highlighted in these personal stories [in 30 Years of Bipolar] there is still a long, long way to go.
“When you compare funding, support facilities, research and resources over the past 10 years with, for example, a severe physical illness the disparity is glaringly obvious. The current Health Minister [Jeremy Hunt] recently called for "parity" between physical and mental health; sadly this is still a long way off. We at Bipolar UK are determined that it doesn't take another 30 years before this is achieved!”
Pete, who was diagnosed with bipolar in 1986, added: “There have been improvements such as increased awareness, but prejudice still exists. Colleagues did not contact me when I was off work, pain clinic staff were influenced by my psychiatric history dismissing physical illnesses as all in the mind, people stay away from support groups because they fear stigma.”