‘You’re so bipolar’: Mental illness is not a joke

As far as mental illness goes, we may very well be back in the 17th century.

M Khan July 23, 2016
In an age where obtaining information is as simple as typing a few letters in a search bar and pressing enter, it’s disconcerting to witness the extent of disillusionment when one realises we’re so uneducated in matters of great importance. Mental illness is one of those things.

We may live in the 21st century. We may live in a world where automobiles can drive themselves. Yet, as far as mental illnesses go, we may very well be back in the 17th century. The extent to which people are unaware about mental illness is so pervasive, that those who are informed of it are in fact a minority – a very small and voiceless minority.

A year ago, I decided to pull the plug on my silence regarding my own illness. Six months ago, I had been diagnosed with type two Bipolar Disorder. It took me six months to be comfortable enough in my own skin to tell others of my illness. It took me six months to stop being ashamed of what I had and who I was.

In a world where taboo subjects such as LGBT rights are being addressed, one wonders why mental illness has been side lined. Mental illness does not tread upon or offend anyone’s values or religious differences – it is an issue that can plague any one of us. And yet, it is treated as though it’s the ugly stepsister of all things ‘taboo’.

When I finally told my friends about my disorder, a part of me was hoping that it makes them want to become more aware of my condition and mental issues in general. Perhaps one needs a close, palpable example to make the severity of this condition hit home and, thus, urge them to empathise. I thought I could be that person: a champion for those with mental afflictions, maybe?

It has been over a year since I told my friends, yet there has been no change in their attitude. People ignorantly throw around insults like ‘you’re so bipolar’ without realising that attaching such damning labels to someone may have dire consequences.

I use the word ‘damning’ because in most societies being diagnosed with a mental illness is worse than a death sentence. At least other illnesses can be cured, but mental illness? Not so much.

This mind-set is exactly why mental illness is still as taboo as it was four centuries ago. If you are diagnosed with a mental illness, you can’t tell anyone about it out of fear of what other people might think or say.

Being mentally ill in our world is a slippery slope. Either you don’t tell anyone about it and wallow in self-pity for the rest of your life or you tell a lot of people and find yourself the subject of cruel comments and insensitive jokes.

One wonders, would people empathise more if someone from their family suffered from a psychological disorder? Would they be okay with them being made fun of? Would they allow them to be discriminated against?

Honestly, what people say isn’t even the worst part; it is how we personally deal with the disorder.

At times, psychiatrists can prove to be worse than the biggest bully at school. They’re just pill pushers. Medication is one of the most difficult aspects about this condition. I’ve been taking Quetiapine for the past two months. For those of you who don’t know what this is; Quetiapine is an anti-psychotic with potent sedative effects.

Thirty minutes after taking your dosage, you’re worse than an Irish person on St Patrick’s Day. Your medication starts controlling you and isolates you further. At times, it makes you feel worse about yourself.

Yes, mental illness is a very slippery slope. I feel it is a fate worse than death, but exactly how much our lack of knowledge contributes to that notion is debatable. We’re at fault for casting aside this ugly stepsister and not giving it its’ due diligence. Maybe it’s time we change things. I hope it’s time things change.
M Khan The author is a medical student at Aga Khan University. Although he enjoys reading and writing in his spare time, his first and only love is formula one racing.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Nim | 7 years ago | Reply Amazing article, I cannot agree more. Can't wait for the day these attitudes change.
Yesss | 7 years ago | Reply In our society most of the people are ignorant of the effects of common diseases like diarrhea, HIV, stroke - a long list to follow. Rank of mental disorder comes at the very end. A better article would be to familiarise the audience with the details and types of mental disorder to promote awareness, for most of people consider mental illness the worst constant state of mental absence from surroundings and inability to behave normally
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