Should We Care that Catherine Zeta-Jones Checked Herself In? …YES!!!
This past week, Oscar-award winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones admitted herself to a mental health facility proactively for treatment of her Bipolar II Disorder. What might have been a blip on the screen of pop culture actually provides us an enlightening glimpse into the importance of accessible treatment, and education about symptoms and symptom management of a mental illness.
Bipolar II Disorder, often described as the “less severe” form of Bipolar Disorder (formely known as Manic Depression), is characterized by at least one hypomanic episode (as opposed to a full blown manic episode) and at least one major depressive episode. Unfortunately, the depressive episodes in Bipolar II Disorder can actually be longer and more pervasive than those of Bipolar I Disorder, and individuals with Bipolar II Disorder can be at a higher risk of suicide as a result.
Also, there is a lot of discussion in the medial research community (I’m a Social Worker so I’m spearking outside of class here) about the phenomenon – or proposed phenomenon – of kindling. The “kindling effect,” borrowed from the epilepsy/neurology field purports that someone with bipolar disorder can, even on medication, develop symptomatic episodes that become worse and more frequent over time, with each episode doing further damage and promoting the kindling effect, just as a fire needs smaller pieces of wood to keep itself going. Some research suggests that by preventing an “episode,” one might be blockig the kindling effect. Kudos to Ms. Zeta-Jones for being in touch with her symptoms and having the insight to get treatment when she so needed it.
But what is the true leson here? A lady who has the insight (and courage) to seek timely treatment instead of doing something Britney-esque or Lindsay Lohan-like? Not really. The real lesson is her courage. By going public, Catherine Zeta-Jones helps break the stigma that people with a mental illness face everyday. Nearly 6 million Americans are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. In the US, 2.2 million people have schizophrenia, and a staggering 17.1 million experience Major Depresssion.
Because these illnesses manifest themselves in thought, mood, and behavior, society tends to be less sympathetic than to someone who has an obvious physical disability. But the truth is that mental illnesses are brain disorders just like diabtetes is a metabolic disorder. When people in the limelight like Ms. Zeta-Jones are transparent and genuine about managing their illness, stigmas are chipped away, and we learn from her.
(Sources for some of the above include webmd, wikipedia, The LA Times, The New York Post.)
If you or someone you know needs treatment for symptoms of a mental illness, visit http://www.hcmhrsb.org/ to access treatment in Cincinnati. If you are actively suicidal or homicidal in Cincinnati, please call Psychiatric Emergency Services at 584-8577. Otherwise please call 911 in your own area if you are in a true psychiatric crisis.
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