One very important issue we, as a community, try to battle. It’s the negative assumptions associated with bipolar and those who have been diagnosed with the illness. I personally have experienced instances where certain assumptions were made about me once I revealed I had bipolar. I became viewed as a liability. But then there are the stigmas we see being promoted in the media. Not too long ago we witnessed a huge media blow up regarding Megan Fox and her decision to remove her tattoo of Marilyn Monroe because Marilyn had bipolar disorder and was bringing her “negative energy”. We read all the tabloid headlines declaring Britney Spears “bipolar” when they witnessed her partying and exhibiting odd behaviors such as shaving her hair off. Then, just recently, we had Charlie Sheen’s erratic behavior declared “bipolar,” and in a recent episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Kim tells her brother to stop acting “bipolar.” Are any of these portrayals of bipolar disorder sticking with the public? Have any of our efforts to combat stigma been even the slightest bit effective?
When I decided to write about stigma, I had so many ideas, such as why there was a media blow up about Megan Fox’s tattoo, yet there was no mention about Kim Kardashian’s use of the word. Did it have something to do with the person who made the statements? Maybe, but I thought that a more interesting angle would be to see what the general population really thinks when they hear the word “bipolar.” Do they think of the crazy behaviors of Britney Spears and Charlie Sheen? Do they think of negative energy like Megan Fox stated? Do they have a pretty good idea of what bipolar disorder is? Should we focus more of our stigma fighting on issues such as educating the public of our competency and ability to live our lives as ordinary, functioning adults as long as we remain under our doctors care and take care of ourselves? That we are not as big of a liability as one thinks?
I wanted to see what others (who were not diagnosed with bipolar disorder) thought when they heard the word “bipolar.” I personally have not had anyone in my circle of friends or family think that I’m “crazy” or “psychotic” or anything like that because of my diagnosis, but have had those stigmas affect me by others, as I mentioned earlier. So, I decided the only way to find out was to take a survey. It had to be anonymous because I was afraid that people wouldn’t give me honest answers if they knew I would be able to tell what answers each person gave. Survey Monkey was the best option, so I posted the survey and waited for the responses to pour in. I also thought it would be interesting to look up the word “bipolar” on the Urban Dictionary website. Their tag line is “The Dictionary You Wrote” so I though it would be a great place to start and see how the public defined “bipolar.”
The Urban Dictionary website had 20 definitions for the word “bipolar” that pertained to mental illness. The most popular definitions described “bipolar” using phrases such as:
There were only 3 definitions that were negative (and surprisingly they were the least popular).
The words they used were:
I’m really not surprised to find those adjectives in the mix, however, I was shocked to see that they were the LEAST popular of them all. Does this mean that maybe people are starting to learn what bipolar disorder really is and perhaps just a hand full of people out there are still uneducated about it? Could our efforts to reduce stigma and to educate the public be working? The media, however, seem to be in that hand full that hasn’t “gotten the memo” yet and continue to focus their coverage on those least popular and less favorable adjectives and because of media influence and exposure, those are the ones that seem to get the most attention. Yet, despite the media attention, could the efforts we put forth to combat stigma actually outweigh that attention? Is it possible?
It is ABSOLUTELY possible!!!!
The survey results very closely reflected what I found on the Urban Dictionary website. I posted the survey link on my personal Facebook page, my blog’s Facebook page, a teen Facebook page I help run, and a few people I know posted the survey link on their own Facebook pages. The question asked was:
Here is what the results of the 26 surveys said.
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