Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Bipolar Disorder Makes the Headlines

Today Magdalena Antrobus, PhD student at the University of Birmingham, comments on a news story for our new blog feature, "in the news".

The divide between humour and disgust seemed to dissolve for one British clothing retailer.

“Don’t get mad, take lithium” wrote Joy, a clothes chain, with 26 shops nationwide, on one of their greeting cards, available for sale. Spotted by one of the customers, the words trivialising bipolar disorder sparkled social media, causing anger and distress among those who could relate to the problem of manic-depressive illness, as well as among mental health charities.

Stories like this one hit the headlines now and then, exposing a lack of understanding of the nature of mental illness and questionable marketing strategies. However, what usually follows is a more or less sincere apology and withdrawal of the product of interest. The unfortunate story usually makes its exit as quickly as it makes its entrance to the national news. Not this time, though.

The response from Joy fell far short of what was expected. “If you know anyone with bipolar disorder, don't buy it for them. PROBLEM SOLVED!” And that was not the end. When asked about people with bipolar who may go in shopping for themselves, the store replied: “They'll like it one minute and hate it the next?”

As The Independent reports, after a long and completely unnecessary discussion, exposing both lack of basic knowledge of the mental health issues and bad business ethics, the shop finally apologized. Will they remove the card from their shops? They have not said. Let us hope so.

The insensitive message on Joy's card
The whole story ignited a media debate on Twitter: Can we turn mental health problems into a commodity? Does the retailer's attitude to mental illness reveal our own fears, anxieties and ignorance? How should we react to bad practice? If there is any positive side to stories like the one described, it might be about the rising interest in the nature of the illness itself!

What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is currently the sixth main cause of disability in the world. It is a type of psychosis, with harmful outcomes as much to the suffering individual as to her closest environment. One in five people experiencing the illness end their life by committing suicide; BD makes individuals far more likely to commit suicide than any other psychiatric or medical risk group, including schizophrenia. Accordingly, BD has been associated with remarkable stigma.

What is lithium?
Lithium is one of the most widely used and studied medications for treating bipolar disorder. It helps reduce the severity and frequency of mania, relieve or prevent bipolar depression. It works to stabilize the mood and reduce extremes in behavior by restoring the balance of certain natural substances (neurotransmitters) in the brain.


  1. Another case of a questionable marketing strategy!

    Read this statement by the Chief Executive of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust:

    "The Bethlem Royal Hospital is a component part of our organisation and is an international centre of excellence for the provision of mental health services. As CEO of the Royal Agricultural Society, organisers of the Perth Royal Show, I request that you remove the ‘Bethlem Sanatorium ride’ from your event. The ride is deeply offensive; stigmatises mental illness and reinforces negative stereotypes about mental health. It fosters discrimination and promotes the perception of ‘scary mental health patients’ which will undoubtedly deter people from seeking the help they need."

    Full statement here: http://www.slam.nhs.uk/media/news/slam-demands-‘bethlem-sanatorium-ride’-cancellation

  2. bipolar disorder is a huge illness to live with and it affects many people including the people who have it and those around them. People need to be taught more on the matter: http://www.patient.co.uk/health/bipolar-disorder-leaflet

  3. Nicole.lascurain@healthline.com24 October 2015 at 21:53

    Hi Lisa,

    First off, I came across your site and wanted to say thanks for providing a great resource to the mental health community.

    I thought you might find this bipolar disorder fact sheet helpful for your readers, as it shows symptoms, treatment and stats about the disorder: http://www.healthline.com/health/bipolar-disorder/fact-sheet

    Naturally, I’d be delighted if you share this embeddable graphic on http://imperfectcognitions.blogspot.com/2014/09/bipolar-disorder-makes-headlines.html , and/or share it with your followers on social. Either way, keep up the great work Lisa!

    All the best,

    Nicole Lascurain | Assistant Marketing Manager
    p: 415-281-3100 | e: nicole.lascurain@healthline.com

    660 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
    www.healthline.com | @Healthline


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