World Diabetes Day, World Cancer Day, and even World Egg Day, and now, drum roll please, World Bipolar Day (WBD). WBD is a day to bring about awareness of bipolar disorder. It is the brainchild of Dr. Pichet Udomratn, a member of the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD) who collaborated with International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) and International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) to bring his idea to fruition. Now, each year, WBD will be celebrated on March 30, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was posthumously diagnosed as probably having bipolar disorder.
The vision of WBD is to bring world awareness to bipolar disorders and to eliminate social stigma education. Through international collaboration, the goal of World Bipolar Day is to bring the world population information about bipolar disorder that will educate and improve sensitivity towards the illness.
But a bipolar day? Are there that many people with it to support having its own day?
There are 450 million people worldwide with mental illness. Of those it is estimated that the global prevalence of bipolar disorder is between 1 and 2 percent and has been said to be as high as 5 percent,which is three times all the diabetes and 10 times all the cancers combined.
Why then do we hear so much in the news, on television, and in conversations about other diseases like diabetes and cancer, and rarely anything about bipolar?
Mental illnesses have historically been misunderstood, feared and therefore stigmatized. The stigma is due to a lack of education, mis-education, false information, ignorance, or a need to feel superior. Its effects are especially painful and damaging to one’s self-esteem. It leaves people with mental illnesses feeling like outcasts from society. Whether the perceived stigma is real or not, it is the subjective interpretation that affects the person’s feelings of belonging. Like most groups who are stigmatized against, there are many myths surrounding mental illness.
Enter WBD. Organizations around the world are invited to participate in this awareness campaign. Some will host educational conferences for the public or hold depression screenings; some will hold news interviews, and others like ANBD are coordinating a 5K run. IBPF, which has been collecting photos of people extolling who they are outside of their bipolar disorder, will be sharing hundreds of photos throughout the day through their social media sites.
Dispelling myths, teaching the signs and symptoms, sharing resources, and pointing out healthy living techniques will be imparted for all to use.
WBD is not about “them,” it’s for everyone. We all know someone. Join us!