Why does it take the death of a celebrity to get people to talk about Mental Illness?

megaphoneRobin Williams, a comedian/actor died on August 11th. For the past three days everyone has been talking about him, his mental illness and the sad details of his death.

There has been increase in talk about mental illness (some good, some bad). The amount of talk has increased in leaps and bounds.  It is great that it is a topic of conversation.

However, mental illness was a problem before his death. One  in four people are affected by the disease.  Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.  How many people knew that before August 11th?  How many people knew that Robin Williams suffered from bipolar disorder? How many people even knew what bipolar disorder was?

I am glad that people are talking about mental illness. However, how long will it last?  If it’s anything like other famous people and their deaths in the past, not too long.

Mental illness needs to be talked about not only when a famous person dies, but all the time.  It does not just need to be discussed among those affected by mental illness, but by everyone!

People need to be made aware that mental illness is something that can be treated, what to look for in others, where they can get help, that there is hope and recovery, and there is no shame in getting help.  Instead, people oftentimes only hear about the horrific things that happen in the news that involve people with mental illnesses. Instead of the media taking those opportunities to educate others about mental illness, they contribute to the stigma oftentimes.

Robin Williams’s death is awful and I am glad that it has brought the talk of mental illness to the forefront. His death deeply saddens me yet I hope that much can be learned by it. My fear is that the talk about mental illness will stop in the near future. The 25% of the population that suffers from mental illness deserves more than that.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Robin’s  family during this difficult time.  I also am thinking about the families of the 30,000 other people who have committed suicide this past year.


Robin Williams a Coward? Apology NOT accepted!

cowardShepard Smith from Fox News: “It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?” he added. “You could love three little things so much, watch them grow, they’re in their mid-20s, and they’re inspiring you, and exciting you, and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known. And yet, something inside you is so horrible or you’re such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today.”

Fox News is pretty much the only news channel I watch. I  have grown to like Shepard Smith among several other people on that channel.  However, this morning, I have been made to reconsider.

What Shepard Smith says shows the ignorance about mental illness that grows rampant in our society.  It is bad enough that there is a stigma and so many people are uneducated about mental illness. It is bad enough that when there are tragedies that the media doesn’t use the opportunity to educate the public about mental illnesses and only likes to demonize the suspect and make people think that all people who have mental illnesses are violent.

Smith went over the top.  I don’t think it is good enough that he apologized.  It makes me sick to think that he is going to get away with it just by saying he is sorry and that “it just came out of his mouth”.  Would it be ok if he said that to someone who died of a heart attack was awful to do that to his/her family because they didn’t diet?  Would it be ok that it was awful that someone left their kids behind because they didn’t do the right treatment and died of cancer?  Would it be ok if he was insensitive and said that someone died of lung disease because they chose to smoke and that he could not believe they would do that to their family?  I don’t think so!

People with mental illnesses don’t choose to have the mental illness just like someone does not choose to have cancer or heart disease.  Maybe it is time that Shephard Smith along with the majority of other media takes a course in compassion and educates themselves on how mental illness affects 1 in 4 people. Depression is not a choice or a sign of weakness and suicide is the tenth leading cause of death and the third leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24. 3

Maybe if they started using opportunities like this to educate the public about how cowardice it is to commit suicide, it would be better to broadcast the suicide hotline, quote stats about mental illness, and educate everyone about the various mental illnesses. They should also read the Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide

I don’t think that Smith should get away with this. He obviously felt that Robin Williams was a coward or he would not have said it.

Things Shephard could have used the air time for instead of what he said:

There are so many things he could have used the air time for and yet he chose to let everyone know that he thought suicide was cowardly and that people with mental illnesses should be ashamed of themselves. It makes me sick! I am usually a forgiving person, but it will be a very long time before I can listen to Smith again if ever.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please seek help.



International Suicide Hotline 




Suicide, Bipolar Disorder, and Robin Williams

robin williamsRobin Williams, a wonderful actor, had bipolar disorder. This mental illness does not discriminate.  I, a long with many, are saddened by his death.  I feel for his family and the many people who loved this outstanding man.

Bipolar disorder is a horrible disease that is often not discussed due to the stigma attached to mental illness. It needs to be talked about and hopefully over the next few weeks, people will learn more about this illness.

Many talented people over time have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Please see my  Pinterest site for 250 of them or see Famous People with Bipolar Disorder.

“Do I perform sometimes in a manic style? Yes,” Williams told Terry Gross on the “Fresh Air” NPR radio show in 2006. “Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.” 9

Mania is defined by Merriam-Webster as excitement manifested by mental and physical hyperactivity, disorganization of behavior, and elevation of mood. 2  However, if you have bipolar disorder or know someone who does, you know that this does not begin to explain mania.

While manic, these are some of the qualities a person displays:

  • They have  a lot of energy usually resulting in little to no sleep.
  • They often have poor judgement. For example, they may spend money they don’t have.
  • They think they can do just about everything (thoughts of grandeur, very high self-esteem) For example, they might think they are Jesus or can run for president.
  • They talk a lot and rapidly. My mom calls this “verbally overproductive”
  • They oftentimes become very religious. (They become obsessed in an unhealthy way.)
  • Racing thoughts: This makes it very hard to concentrate or finish simple tasks.
  • Easily get agitated or irritated
  • They get involved in a lot of activities. This poses a problem later if they get depressed because they are unable to follow thru.
  • Promiscuity
  • They often binge eat, drink, or do drugs. (Many times people are not diagnosed because they self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol. 4

Depression is defined by Merriam-Webster as a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way. 3

While depressed:

  • Hard to concentrate
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Isolation is common
  • Don’t enjoy things they used to enjoy
  • Lack of energy
  • Change in sleep (usually sleep more)
  • Change in eating habits
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Hard to make decisions
  • Sadness often not caused by anything in particular 5

Having bipolar disorder increases suicide risk by 15X more than that of the general  population. 1

Some facts on Suicide:

  • In the United States,  someone dies by suicide about every 14 minutes. 6
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. 6
  • Every day, approximately 99 Americans take their own life.Over 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent. 6
  • Over 60% of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent. 6
  • There are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides for every suicide death. 6
  • Every year, more than 800 000 people worldwide die from suicide (a death every 40 seconds) 10

Although Robin Williams’s death is a tragedy, I hope something good can come from it. I hope more people learn about bipolar disorder and depression and mental illness is less stigmatized so that the rate of suicide goes down because people seek help.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please get help.

The Suicide Hotline in the United States: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Suicide Hotlines world-wide Hotlines

Suicide Warning signs: 9

Talking about suicide Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” and “I’d be better off dead.”
Seeking out lethal means Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
Preoccupation with death Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
No hope for the future Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (“There’s no way out”). Belief that things will never get better or change.
Self-loathing, self-hatred Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).
Getting affairs in order Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
Saying goodbye Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
Withdrawing from others Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
Self-destructive behavior Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”
Sudden sense of calm A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.





Is it a Mental Illness or a Mental Disorder?

bb wpA few months ago, someone told me that autism was not a mental illness and that when people call it that, they are wrong. Today someone challenged me again that autism is not a  mental illness, but a mental disorder.

Is having a mental illness such a bad thing? I have bipolar disorder and it definitely is not something I would wish on anyone.  However, I believe that mental illness is considered such an awful thing because of the stigma and because people are just not educated about it.

I have a problem with the two people who were so adamant about  autism not being a mental illness.  I knew it was in the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but I did some more digging. I thought that maybe mental disorder was not the same as mental illness. Well, I found out from several sources, that it is.

Merriam-Webster defines mental disorder as “a mental or bodily condition marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, and emotions to seriously impair the normal psychological functioning of the individual—called also mental illness”

Wikipedia defines mental illness as “A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a mental  or behavioral  pattern or anomaly that causes either suffering or an impaired ability to function in ordinary life (disability), and which is not developmentally or socially normative.”

American Heritage defines mental illness as “Any of various disorders characterized chiefly by abnormal behavior or an inability to function socially, including diseases of the mind and personality and certain diseases of the brain. Also called mental disease , mental disorder .”

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) lists mental illnesses  “Find out more about a specific MENTAL ILLNESS: Anxity Disorders, AUTISM Spectrum Disorders, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, Dissociative Disorders, Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Mental Illness, Eating Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, Schizophrenia, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome”

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation‘s list: 1-in-4 of Us Live With a MENTAL ILLNESS: ADHD | Anxiety | AUTISM| Bipolar Disorder | Depression | OCD | PTSD | Schizophrenia | Other Illnesses

Psych Central has autism listed under “Symptoms and Treatments of Mental Disorders.” I have already determined that the term mental disorder is synonymous with mental illness.

National Institute of Health: There are many different MENTAL ILLNESSES, including depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,  AUTISM, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Each illness alters a person’s thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors in distinct ways.

The Social Security Administration lists  mental disorders: Organic mental disorders; schizophrenic, paranoid and other psychotic disorders, affective disorder, intellectual disability,  anxiety-related disorders,  somatoform disorders, personality disorders, substance addiction disorders, and AUTISTIC DISORDER and other pervasive developmental disorders

Friends of Mental Health/Advocacy: There are many different MENTAL ILLNESSES, including depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Each illness alters a person’s thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors in distinct ways.

Internet Mental Health lists Autism as a Mental Health Disorder

Top 10 Mental Illnesses And Their Myths lists Autism as a mental illness

List of Mental Disorders and Conditions lists Autism

DSM-5 List of Mental Disorders under heading mental disorder ( neurodevelopmental disorders)

Teen Mental Health lists under mental disorder (developmental disorders section)

Mental- of or relating to the mind Source

Disorder- to disturb the regular or normal functions of Source

Illness- an unhealthy condition of body or mind  Source

Developmental- of or relating to the growth or development of someone or something Source

Mental illness, mental disorder, developmental disorder.  As a parent, what term would you rather have your child called?  Think about it- How much of your answer is determined by stigma and society?

“It is easy to see why families whose members are afflicted by autism might hope to recategorize the condition.”  However, embracing the mental illness label would be more humane.  Insisting that it is not a mental illness is insisting that that is shameful.” Psychology Today

To put it more harshly, If someone does not think or want autism to be called a “mental illness”, I suggest they call Wikipedia, Merriam Webster, the authors of the DSM 5, NAMI, Psych Central, The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, and NAMI to argue their point. Maybe instead, they could help erase the reason why they feel it should be called a mental illness or mental disorder.

It is not that autism is or isn’t a mental illness or mental disorder that bothers me. What bothers me is that people think it is so awful that their loved one is labeled as having a mental disorder or mental illness.

Note: There were a few places I did not see autism listed as a mental disorder or mental illness.  Some say that it is a developmental disorder. However, I found autism listed as a mental disorder of mental illness in the majority of the places I looked. 

If you want to describe your child as having a developmental disorder:

Developmental disorders is a group of PSYCHIATRIC conditions originating in childhood that involve serious impairment in different areas. There are several ways of using this term.[1] The most narrow concept is used in the category “Specific Disorders of Psychological Development” in the ICD-10 These disorders comprise language disorders, learning disorders, motor disorders, and AUTISM spectrum disorders. In broader definitions ADHD is included, and the term used is neurodevelopmental disorders.  Yet others include antisocial behavior and SCHIZOPHRENIA that begins in childhood and continues through life. However, these two latter conditions are not as stable as the other developmental disorders, and there is not the same evidence of a shared genetic liability Source

Writings from Bipolar Bandit’s Father Part 1

dad and me I am so very proud of my wife (Bipolar Bandit’s mother) and all she does to keep our family together. I am also proud of the host of this site, my daughter aka Bipolar Bandit.

Michelle (Bipolar Bandit)  is awesome beyond compare. She struggled with more things early in her life than most people see in a lifetime yet she stayed the course, got an education, contributed to society as a teacher and now has a new calling as the host of this site.

As Michelle’s dad,  I know first hand how difficult it is to be a family member and the difficulties that go along with being a parent, spouse, or sibling of someone with a mental illness. Through all the difficulties and with her Mom’s unfailing guidance, I kept reminding myself that this was not the real Michelle. It was her illness and my job was to stay with her and to fight the battles alongside her no matter what it took.

Over the years, we have shared our inner most thoughts about almost everything and I have endured many sleepless night and challenges I never expected. I will never stop loving her and will do my best to support her in the future.

In the end, I know the world would be a much sadder place without Michelle and all those of you who suffer with mental illness. So, whether you have a mental illness or you are in a family who has a mentally ill member (1 in 4 families), please stay the course and be there to support each other no matter what.

Writings from the Mother of Bipolar Bandit Part 6: My Daughter’s Struggles in School

mom and me for blogI am writing this because I want you to know how important it is that as a family member that you never give up on your loved one with a mental illness and that your being their advocate is so very important.

Our daughter’s first struggles with weeks of depression was  when she was in 8th grade.
She would be too depressed to go to school and would stay home. Then it was like a light switch was turned on and she would catch up on all her homework assignments in a few days.  (she was always very smart) This was told to many doctors  over the years and knowing what I know now , at least one of them should have recognized this as manic behavior.
I went to school asking to speak to all of her teachers after her absences became  more frequent.
We were hopeful that perhaps her depression was environmental and had been taking her to environmental Dr for allergy shots.
This was helpful and I researched as much as possible. Food allergies were discussed and for awhile things seemed to be going better.
However, what teenager wants to give up pizza and coke and going with friends for ice cream?
This is a very difficult time for children in general- struggling with identity. Each time she was absent it seemed she lost more and more of her friends.
Some kids were very cruel- taunting her and saying unkind things.
I don’t blame kids… all were trying to survive and find their place. I must admit, I was disappointed in some- especially ones whose parents we  were friends with., and or went to church with us.
The principal told me that 8th grade girls are the meanest creatures on the face of the earth. To this day, I truly believe this smart man.
We some how got through each episode and Michelle was involved with music and horse back riding- 4H group  so she  had an outlet.
One of the things that was hardest on Michelle was that due to absences kids she sat with at lunch no longer wanted her to sit with them . I am not sure if this was true or if she just felt this way.
She was lucky that the guidance counselor let  her eat in her office.
This was all before anti- bullying talks and procedures were set in place. Despite many conversations with principal re:cruelty -nothing was ever done by the school to prevent or help in the situation.
We just kept keeping on. Taking a day at a time. Lots of talks, walks and reassurance that she would get through all this.
Lots of holding when tears came, lots of trying to explain disappointments we feel when  people we thought were friends doesn’t just happen to her age group but  happens at all ages.
The thing that I had hardest time about was lack of support from family members and”good”  friends I had always been there for.
Let me say, SHARE WHAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH WITH OTHERS. . The thing that amazed me most were people I thought of as acquaintances who became great friends and avid supporters. I call these my Christian friends. Not all Christian friends were nice or supportive but  this  is when I realized that some people just give lip service to being a good Christian. You never know who might be your lifeline.
If you try to hide your difficult situation – I feel you are doing two things that could be detrimental. You are losing out on chance to gain support and you are telling your loved one that you are embarrassed or reluctant to share their illness with others.
Caution here- You must determine what it is your loved one wants you to share and be respectful of that when possible. On the other hand do not let them fall into the trap of stigma and all  that entails.
High school and college brought many ups and downs. Stay close, be as supportive and loving as you can be. Make your loved one contract with you if they feel suicidal. Make them promise they would not try to kill self and promise to tell you if they are feeling hopeless or suicidal.
You may be the only thing that stands between them and suicide.
This is not to say parents are to blame if child does commit suicide. Often times the discussion that you would not be able to live without them and you would feel like such a failure if they didn’t tell you and contract not to go ahead with their suicide  plan is just what they need to hear.. Explain How sad and empty your life would be without them.that it would hurt you and their siblings immensely and forever.
Talking about suicide does not give person the idea but it can make the difference of them not acting on deep depression and thoughts of ending their life.
Hang in there. Life gets better… Just get your child through enough life so they can know that things get better and they will experience wonderful friendships and things if they just keep keeping on. A day at a time.. and if that is too overwhelming  then an hour at a time.

30 Mental Health Quotes that Inspire Part 8


Before you quit because the road seems too long, turn around and look how far you’ve come.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

When your self worth goes up, your net worth goes with it. ~Mark Hansen

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character. ~Einstein

Make today count. You’ll never get it back.

When you’re different, sometimes you don’t see the millions of people who accept you for what you are. All you notice is the person who doesn’t.

There is only one success; to be able to spend your life in your own way.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

A positive attitude is contagious, but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.

Live in such a way that if anyone should speak badly of you, no one would believe it.

I have many problems in my life, but my lips don’t know that. They always smile.

Love who you have become because you have fought to get there.

Always remember that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.

Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.

It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes.

Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.

Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expect it to change, the realist adjusts the sails.

They did not know it was impossible so they did it.

Where you start is not as important as where you finish.

Seek to be worth knowing rather than well known.

Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not, it’s not the end.

Life is 10% what you make it and 90% how you take it.

Never allow waiting to become a habit. Live your dreams and take risks. Life is happening now.

Don’t be afraid to give up the good and go for the great.

Decide that you want it more than you’re afraid of it.

Self-care is never a selfish act. It is simply good stewardship of the only give I have-the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.

I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.

Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.

It is important to congratulate those who have succeeded. However, it is more important to encourage those who have not.