Some people will speculate about why actress Catherine Zeta-Jones released information yesterday about her decision to check into a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat her bipolar II disorder. Many of us don’t care about the reason; we just applaud the support and encouragement she is receiving from the media.
On ABC’s Good Morning America today both physicians discussing her announcement and the implications of her illness presented balanced commentary and, in doing so, advanced eliminating stigma. It was a healthy discussion about the facts and did not include any shame, disgrace or negativity, which are often included in conversations about mental illness. Absent from the discussion were “long term negative effects,” “out-of-control” and “crazy.” Instead, we heard “hope,” “treatable” and “successful road to treatment.”
When discussing the disorder, Dr. Igor Galynker, director of the Family Center for Bipolar Disorder at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, said, “It can start at any time in a person’s life, and it’s a lifelong illness.”
But according to Galynker, there’s hope for most who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder:
“It is not curable, but it is treatable with medications and psychotherapy. People with bipolar illness can have productive lives like anybody else, once they’re in treatment and compliant with treatment.”
The first step, according to Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor, is to recognize that you have the disorder. Self-recognition will help pave a more successful road to treatment, said Besser.
“When it comes to mental illness, you talk about it more as controlled and managed, and it’s something she will probably be dealing with for her entire life,” said Besser.
Thanks much to Dr. Igor Galynker and Dr. Richard Bessler for saying “no” to the stigma associated with mental illness. We applaud your courage and honesty, and even more, that of Ms. Zeta-Jones.
Editor’s note: Shawna last blogged about the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.