With help, illness can be overcome

More than 2.3 million Americans suffer with bipolar disorder (that’s approximately 1.2 percent of the U.S. population), a mental illness that can profoundly disrupt a person’s ability to think, feel and relate to their environment and others.

An equal number of men and women develop bipolar disorder and it occurs among all ages, races, ethnic groups and social clssses. While the majority of people with bipolar disorder experience an onset of symptoms before age 20, many suffer for nearly 10 years before an accurate diagnosis is made. People suffering from depression and bipolar disorder are far more likely to commit suicide than individuals in any other psychiatric or medical risk group. Approximately 40 percent of people with untreated bipolar disorder abuse alcohol or drugs and are at greater risk for incarceration, job loss or other harmful consequences.

The good news is that bipolar disorder is a mental illness, and with accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, most people can lead full and productive lives. In fact, they can enjoy better treatment success rates than people with other illnesses, such as heart disease.

Thursday has been designated Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). This day aims to increase awareness of bipolar disorder, promote early detection and accurate diagnosis, reduce stigma and minimize the devasting impact on all those affected by the disorder. We at NAMI urge all Snohomish County residents to educate themselves on bipolar disorder and mental illness, to participate in mental health screenings (where and whenever offered) and engage themselves or family members in a successful treatment program, if the illness is diagnosed.

For more information on bipolar disorder please visit our Web site, www.nami.org, or call NAMI Snohomish County at 425-339-3620.

Jim Bloss

President, NAMI Snohomish County

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