Mariah Carey revealed in a recent interview to People’s Magazine that she has been suffering from Bipolar Disorder for 17 years. “I didn’t want to believe it,” she says while revealing that the diagnosis came in 2001, after she was hospitalised for a physical and mental breakdown. Since then she has lived in a constant fear that someone would expose her. She says, “It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music.”
Carey decided to come forward because she is in a really good place right now. She feels comfortable discussing her struggles with bipolar II disorder. Also, she hopes that the society is able to get rid of the stigma associated with mental illness, which isolates people suffering from mental illness.
“I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone. It can be incredibly isolating. It does not have to define you, and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”
It takes courage to come out in open with mental illness
Carey has shown immense courage in talking about her struggle with bipolar disorder. It’s not especially easy for celebrities of Carey’s stature, to open up about mental health issues. This is not only because of the social stigma. But also because of the professional setbacks such revelations can lead to. Many people choose to live in denial of their problems because of their own prejudices. Even those who suffer, see mental health issues as being something which makes them an oddball. This fear, which stems from within, is further powered by those who live around them.
We as a society are still very immature when it comes to understanding mental disorders like bipolar. Most people find it easy to call a person crazy and isolate him or her socially than actually try to understand what that person is going through.
Ignorance has led to a deep-rooted and widespread fear among people, that mental health problems are contagious and make a person capable of physically harming others.
According to a report by The Live Love Laugh Foundation on public perception of health, 60% of respondents believe that people with mental illness “should have their own groups to avoid contaminating healthy people.” How does one explain the world symptoms like hypomania, sleeplessness and hyperactivity? How does one get them to accept that they are not a threat to the normality of the social fabric?
It’s critical that celebs speak out
Our hesitation to have a normal conversation on this issue keeps many people from seeking help. People like Carey suffer for years alone, due to fear of social and professional repercussions. How lonely must Carey have felt, when she had to battle an illness on her own, that too in discretion? All this despite having millions of fans and well wishers.
We can only imagine the fear a talented artist like her must have felt, of losing all that she has earned, simply because the society still feels queasy to talk about mental health.
Which is why voices of celebrities like Carey and back home Deepika Padukone are essential in lifting this stigma around mental health issues. They have managed to stimulate a long-due conversation on the topic. All that people suffering from mental illness need is social acceptance and empathy. It motivates them to seek help and lead a normal life in society. Hopefully, Carey’s painful and lonely struggle of 17 years will prompt many to extend a helping hand to those who are suffering alone in silence.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.
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