What is World Bipolar Day?

Winston Churchill once said “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” 

He made good on that promise, and in 1953 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his historical works. He is now remembered as a soldier, statesman, and the man who helped shepherd Great Britain through World War II as Prime Minister. Few people remember that he also had bipolar disorder. 

Still a rare and often misunderstood condition, bipolar disorder affects about 2.6 percent of adults in the U.S. To help decrease the stigma, improve people’s understanding, and draw people together, the International Bipolar Foundation and others will celebrate World Bipolar Day. 

Observed every year on March 30, this year’s theme is Bipolar Together. The foundation encourages everyone to join the conversation and share their stories online using the hashtags #BipolarTogether and #WorldBipolarDay. 

According to the International Bipolar Foundation, bipolar disorder is a “brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function.” Formerly known as manic-depressive illness, it causes extreme swings from high-energy (manic) periods to low-energy (depressive) periods. 

Particularly severe episodes may include periods of psychosis, where a person displays signs of experiencing an alternate reality, similar to hallucinating. People may experience periods of normalcy between manic and depressive episodes. 

The International Bipolar Foundation describes bipolar disorder as a long-term illness, like diabetes or heart disease, that requires careful management. But that doesn’t mean a person with bipolar cannot live a happy, fulfilled, and successful life. Prominent celebrities and public figures who have publicly discussed their bipolar disorder diagnoses include Mariah Carey, Demi Lovato, Russell Brand, founding Beach Boy member Brian Wilson, Ted Turner, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and, of course, Winston Churchill. (Vincent Van Gogh was posthumously diagnosed as likely having bipolar disorder, which is why the foundation chose his birthday, March 30, as World Bipolar Day.)

It is important for people to recognize the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, whether for themselves or their loved ones. Some symptoms, like hallucinations, may lead to a person being incorrectly diagnosed with schizophrenia. Proper diagnosis is the first step toward proper treatment and management. 

For more information on World Bipolar Day and bipolar disorder, visit the International Bipolar Foundation website