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August, 2007

Promoting Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day in the Community

By Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI Medical Director

From October 7 – 13, 2007, NAMI will be promoting Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) as part of our ongoing effort to raise awareness of mental illness.ken duckworth

One major component of MIAW is Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day (BDAD), slated for October 11. The goals for BDAD are to increase awareness of bipolar disorder (both mania and depression); promote early detection and accurate diagnosis; reduce stigma associated with mental illness; and minimize the impact on those who live with this mental illness.

What do we want people to know about bipolar disorder?

  • If mania and depression are left untreated, people with bipolar disorder are at great risk for suicide, substance abuse, incarceration, and other harmful consequences. The mortality rate for people with untreated bipolar disorder is higher than it is for most types of heart disease and many types of cancer.
  • Bipolar disorder is a treatable and manageable illness. After accurate diagnosis, most people with bipolar disorder can achieve an optimal level of wellness. Essential components of the treatment process include medications, psychotherapy, support groups and education about the illness.

The theme for BDAD 2007 is “Bipolar Opposites: Understanding the Balance Between Mania and Depression.” Why this theme? Because while most people have a general understanding of what constitutes depression, they are not as familiar with mania and its symptoms. While consumers experiencing an episode of mania may feel productive and self-confident, mania can be just as destructive as depression, causing reckless decision-making that can have long-term consequences.

“Bipolar Opposites” gives NAMI a platform to talk about the importance of identifying symptoms of both depression and mania, as well as a chance to highlight resources available to people living with bipolar disorder.

There are a number of materials available to NAMI affiliates to help promote MIAW/BDAD in the community, from consumer materials (posters, stickers, pins) to media educational materials (template press release, media alert) and community education tactics (such as getting a mayoral proclamation in your community).

To access the MIAW/BDAD tool kit, please visit www.nami.org/miaw.

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Dr. Ken Duckworth serves as the medical director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  Triple board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Adult, Child and Adolescent, and Forensic Psychiatry, Dr. Duckworth has extensive experience in the public health arena. 


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