Approximately 60 million people worldwide have bipolar disorder, a mental illness that involves episodes of highs and lows known as mania and depression. Symptoms of bipolar can vary from person to person and depend on the type of episode: mania may involve bouts of impulsivity, risk-taking, feelings of euphoria, sleep disturbances, and psychosis, while depression may include a decreased interest in normal activities, feelings of emptiness, sadness or hopelessness, and negative thinking. There are many other ways which mania and depression may present in a person’s life, making education vital to understanding bipolar disorder and receiving a diagnosis.
As things stand, bipolar disorder is poorly understood by many people. For instance, some do not realize that there is more than one type of bipolar disorder, or that it involves cycles of mania and depression in addition to periods of stability. Some think of those with bipolar disorder as violent or believe the symptoms to be personal flaws rather than part of the disease. The fight to erase stigma and misconceptions is complex and difficult, but the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) is an organization committed to that battle. IBPF strives to support those that have bipolar disorder as well as their loved ones, while promoting awareness and education, and engaging in advocacy efforts.
IBPF was founded in San Diego, CA in 2007 by four parents that have children affected by bipolar disorder. According to the IBPF website, their mission is “to improve understanding and treatment of bipolar disorder through research; to promote care and support resources for individuals and caregivers; and to erase stigma through education”. IBPF offers a wealth of information through their website, such as educational article, video, and book lists; they also provide research updates, a treatment locator, information on bipolar disorder, and blogs penned by over 40 individuals with unique voices and experiences surrounding bipolar disorder. I am both grateful and proud to be one of those bloggers. By offering this feature through their site, IBPF is giving individuals a platform to offer support to others through writing.
IBPF is also actively involved with advocacy efforts and produces a series of webinars that promote education and awareness. In addition to webinars, they also host a number of events. One event of note is World Bipolar Day, which takes place on March 30, the birthday of Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh is believed to have had bipolar disorder. Additionally, IBPF has created a book called Healthy Living with Bipolar Disorder that serves as a valuable source of information for those connected to the illness, as it provides information about bipolar disorder, healthy lifestyle, and resources such as mood and medication charts. The book is available as a free download via the IBPF website.
There are a number of ways to get involved with IBPF. They are active on social media and can be reached through their various accounts. Blogging regularly, or sharing your story are two other options for involvement.
According to their site, “International Bipolar Foundation envisions wellness, dignity and respect for people living with bipolar disorder”. This vision and cause proves inspiring and worthy of uniting with IBPF to promote awareness and education, and to fight to make stigma obsolete.