Why Mariah Carey opening up about her bipolar is so important

Mariah Carey has revealed she’s suffering from bipolar [Photo: Getty]
Mariah Carey has revealed she’s suffering from bipolar [Photo: Getty]

Earlier this week, Mariah Carey opened up about her long battle with bipolar disorder.

The singer was originally diagnosed with the condition way back in 2001 following a highly publicised mental health breakdown, which culminated in her hospitalisation.

Despite her diagnosis Mariah revealed that she’d chosen to keep her condition a secret for years.

“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she told People.

“It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore.”

Mariah’s fear of exposure about her condition is sadly not uncommon.

According to recent statistics from Bipolar UK 1% to 2% of the population experience a lifetime prevalence of bipolar and recent research suggests as many as 5% of us are on the bipolar spectrum.

Bipolar affects 1-2% of the population [Photo: Getty]
Bipolar affects 1-2% of the population [Photo: Getty]

But despite affecting so many people, it remains a particularly misunderstood mental illness, which is why it is so important that Mariah is speaking out now.

Mental health charity, Mind recently found that over a quarter (28 per cent) of people who know someone with mental health problems said they had started a conversation with a loved one about their mental health as a direct result of reading or hearing about a celebrity’s experiences.

A quarter (25 per cent) also said hearing a celebrity talk openly about their own mental health had directly inspired them to seek help for themselves and half (52 per cent) said it has helped them to feel like they weren’t alone.

“The impact of high profile individuals speaking out about their own mental health shouldn’t be underestimated,” Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind explains.

“They help normalise mental health problems by talking about their own experiences. By Mariah speaking so candidly about her own experiences of bipolar disorder she shows that mental health problems can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnic group, profession or social status. Her words will no doubt give many people, especially her fans, the confidence to reach out for support.”

The NHS describes Bipolar disorder as a condition that affects moods, which can swing from one extreme to another.

The site says those suffering from bipolar disorder have periods or episodes of: depression – feeling very low and lethargic and mania – feeling very high and overactive (less severe mania is known as hypomania)

“We all have variations in our mood, but in bipolar disorder these changes can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life,” explains Stephen Buckley.

“People with bipolar disorder may experience their changes in mood as extreme, from periods of overactive, excited behaviour or ‘mania’, to deep depression. There are different types of bipolar disorder, based on the cycle between manic and low episodes, or the severity of symptoms, which varies from person to person.”

If Mariah’s interview with People is anything to go by she has experienced these symptoms at both ends of the emotional spectrum.

“I was working and working and working… I was irritable and in constant fear of letting people down,” she said.

“It turns out that I was experiencing a form of mania. Eventually I would just hit a wall. I guess my depressive episodes were characterised by having very low energy. I would feel so lonely and sad, even guilty that I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing for my career.”

Like many other mental health conditions and disorder, it is often the cycle of misunderstanding and stigma that keeps bipolar sufferers from speaking out about their personal experiences and seeking the help they need.

Keeping quiet could contribute to the fact that it takes an average of 10.5 years for a sufferer to receive a correct diagnosis for bipolar in the UK.

it is important to seek help if you think you might be suffering from bipolar [Photo: Getty]
it is important to seek help if you think you might be suffering from bipolar [Photo: Getty]

But according to Stephen Buckley, there are some other factors that influence the time taken for diagnosis.

“It can take a while for some people to get the right diagnosis, often because it involves change in mood over time,” he explains.

“Most people with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder will be offered medication to help manage their symptoms, which needs to be closely monitored.”

“However, it’s important to remember what works for one person may not work for another, but many people with bipolar disorder find talking treatments, including counselling and psychotherapy, helpful, as they can help people understand why they feel as you do, and change the way people think and feel, helping them to cope better. Other self-management techniques such as exercise, mindfulness, a healthy diet and a good night’s sleep can all help manage symptoms too.”

And according to Mind treatment for bipolar can be hugely effective, which is something that Mariah Carey can likely vouch for.

The singer revealed that with a combination of therapy and the right medication she’s feeling a lot better.

“Everyone should all be able to access timely mental health support when they need it,” Stephen Buckley continues.

“If you think you or a loved one might be experiencing a mental health problem seeking help is one of the most important things you can do.”

For bipolar sufferers, living with the condition can be frustrating not to mention confusing but the more celebrities, like Mariah, open up about their own experiences and improvements in their mental health, the more we can challenge that culture of confusion.

After sharing her story, perhaps more people will feel comfortable in coming forward to get the help they need and at the same time advance that bipolar conversation that little bit further.

If you think you may be suffering from bipolar of another mental health condition speak to a friend or family member or go to your GP, who can talk you through the support that’s available or call the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 for more information.

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