According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 450 million people globally with mental illness; of that number, 5 percent are labeled bipolar, which is three times the amount of diabetes cases and 10 times the amount of cancer cases. Bipolar is the sixth leading cause of disability, according to WHO.
"Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness that represents a significant challenge to patients, health care workers, family members and our communities," according to a press release from World Bipolar Day organizers. "While growing acceptance of bipolar disorder as a medical condition, like diabetes and heart disease, has taken hold in some parts of the world, unfortunately the stigma associated with the illness is a barrier to care and continues to impede early diagnosis and effective treatment."
So how do we break down barriers and dispel myths and mistruths? Enter World Bipolar Day.
March 30 is the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, the famous painter who cut off his own ear and was posthumously diagnosed with probable bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. Dr. Pichet Udomratn, a member of the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD) who worked with with International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) and International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) to create World Bipolar Day, thought March 30 would be a fitting day to bring the world information about a highly stigmatized and feared mental illness.
"As Martin Luther King once said, I have a dream that one day our nations will rise up and create all men equal, " wrote Muffy Walker, founder and president of IBPF, according to the press release. "And I have a dream that my son, who has lived most of his life with bipolar disorder, will one day live in a nation where he will not be judged by his illness, but rather by the content of his character. I believe that World Bipolar Day will help bring my dream to fruition."