The survey revealed that almost half (47%) of all people with bipolar disorder - or 'consumers' as many mental health patients prefer to be referred to as - feel that their disease has had a highly negative impact on their quality of life. Further to this, more than a third (35%) of respondents stated they have been discriminated against as a result of their condition, usually within the context of everyday social relationships.
"Many people who successfully treat and manage their bipolar disorder are highly functioning individuals who sustain jobs, relationships, and lead full lives", commented Preston Garrison, Chief Executive Officer of the WFMH. "Unfortunately, however, there is a critical need to improve awareness and remove the social stigma associated with this growing condition so that others, who do not feel comfortable seeking medical support, can obtain appropriate treatment and, as a result, dramatically improve their quality of life."
The WFMH partnered with AstraZeneca to implement this survey of 687 bipolar disorder consumers across seven countries (Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, United States). The findings from the Thinking Ahead survey add a compelling consumer voice to the WFMH mission and AstraZeneca's commitment to reducing damaging stigma associated with mental disorders and improving outcomes for people living with mental disorders and their families.
The survey also revealed:
- 26% of respondents NEVER tell people they have bipolar disorder. Fear of social stigma is a key reason why people do not share this information with others.
- The vast majority (79%) of respondents in all countries say successful treatment would lead to significant quality of life changes in terms of increased functionality/improved lifestyle such as, maintaining a job, having relationships, living independently, and achieving goals.
- 71% of people with bipolar disorder who were surveyed believe that the public does not understand their illness. This ignorance may be causing the stigma that many feel.
Eduard Vieta, Director of the Bipolar Disorders Program of the Hospital Clinic at the University of Barcelona, Spain, commented, "The results of this survey reflect my everyday practice in psychiatry: consumers want and need treatments that will successfully manage and treat their condition and allow everyday functioning. The development in recent years of drugs which have reduced side effects whilst remaining highly effective are a key factor in enabling people with bipolar disorder to maintain a good quality of life."
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a severe biological disorder that affects approximately 3 - 4% of the adult population. As more consumers are being accurately diagnosed this figure will increase. It is a chronic disease and approximately 90% of people with bipolar disorder will have multiple recurrences over the longer term with an average of nine episodes per lifetime.(6)
Michael Grinter, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1996 and currently works with MDF The BiPolar Organisation, comments "Without the right treatment, management and support for bipolar disorder, the condition means that you will be unable to live a normal life. After several years of battling with the condition, I am now able to successfully treat and manage it - I play an active role in the mental health field and enjoy each day as it comes. The damaging stigma that many people associate with my condition only serves to create a climate of fear that lessens acceptance by local communities".