Shedding Labels & Celebrating Our Strength

Last Updated: 17 Sep 2020
bipolar disorder mental health awareness celebrating strength shedding labels stigma

Hope & Harmony Headlines  •  Subscribe
October 1, 2020   •   Volume 13, Issue 40

Thirty years ago, Congress officially established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week. An annual event ever since, mental health advocates use the time—this year, from October 4th to the 10th—to ramp up efforts across three main areas: educating the public, fighting stigma, and offering support.

Three decades later, a lot of progress has been made, yet still so much work must be done in all three aspects. But with millions of people in the United States affected by mental health challenges each year—and 2.9 percent of the population with bipolar disorder—the need is great.

As a result, the conversation about mental health needs to be continually created and kept open, says David Susman, PhD: “Keep talking, sharing, supporting, validating, encouraging, hoping, advocating, educating. Repeat.”

This year, Mental Illness Awareness Week ends on World Mental Health Day, October 10. The 2020 theme, based on the fact that mental health is a human right, is “Mental Health for All: Greater Investment—Greater Access.”

Movements like these do help to make a difference. Awareness is what led New York and Virginia in 2018, for example, to become the first two states to require mental health education in their basic curriculum.

We can help by sharing our journey with others, and by imparting positive messages about mental health both in person and through social media.

It’s all about helping others understand—even if they can’t relate.

For bpHope blogger Beth Brownsberger Mader, using stigma against bipolar as a “Get Out of Jail, Free” card to downplay legitimate emotions and justified behaviors is demeaning. For instance, when they are quick to label our moods and behaviors as being related to our bipolar—not to us being human. She writes that she “and countless others with mental illness try hard every single day to take responsibility for our disorders, behaviors, and actions—and for how we treat others. Those who love us, and wish to be in our lives, will do right to do the same.” Read more >>

Journaling for Stability

Writing out or illustrating our troubling feelings and thoughts offers us an emotional safety valve, perspective for problem-solving, and a way to both spot patterns in bipolar symptoms and treatment, and prevent mood episodes.

By Denise Mann

Whenever James M. is feeling stressed out, he logs on to his computer and writes it all away.

James, an Internet technology professional in Concord, New Hampshire, says that journaling has been a major source of strength and hope in managing his bipolar I disorder. His online journal is now about 180 pages long.

“I first started writing when I was not feeling well and I had thoughts circling around in my head that wouldn’t go away until I wrote them down,” recalls the 27-year-old, who was diagnosed in 2012. Read more >>

About the author
Robin L. Flanigan is a national award-winning journalist for magazines and newspapers, and author of the children’s book M is for Mindful. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in language and literature from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, she worked for eleven years in newsrooms including The Herald-Sun in Durham, North Carolina, and the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York. Her work has earned awards from the Education Writers Association, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association, the New York Newspaper Publishers Association, and elsewhere. She wrote the children’s book M is for Mindful, and also authored a coffee-table book titled Rochester: High Performance for 175 Years. When not writing for work, Robin is usually writing for pleasure, hiking (she climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2008), or searching for the nearest chocolate chip cookie. She lives in Upstate New York with her husband and daughter, and can be found at or on Twitter: @thekineticpen.

Leave a Reply

Please do not use your full name, as it will be displayed. Your email address will not be published.