The International Bipolar Foundation states that 2.6% of the population, age 18 or older, have Bipolar Disorder. Canada has roughly 37 million people which means 962,000 Canadians experience Bipolar Disorder, Type 1 or 2. It is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world.
The age of onset is typically mid-twenties but can also present as late as the 40’s or 50’s (I was 42). An equal number of men and women develop the illness and it is found in all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes.
More than 2/3 of people with the disorder have at least one close relative who has it. This is a scary thought for those who are considering having children. No one with this condition wants their child to experience it and I often worry about the Bear.
Women with Bipolar Type 2 are significantly more likely to experience periods of rapid cycling and they will have more depressive episodes.
Bipolar Disorder results in a 9.2 year reduction in expected life span, and as many as one in five patients with the condition die by suicide.
People experiencing the disorder face up to 10 years of coping with symptoms before getting an accurate diagnosis, with only one in four receiving an accurate diagnosis in less than three years. Women are more likely to be misdiagnosed with depression (as was my case). Men are more likely to be misdiagnosed with schizophrenia.
These are some brutal statistics and the suicide rates are scary. I’m all too aware that my risk of suicide is higher with this illness coupled with the fact that I have already had passive and active suicidal ideation. It doesn’t help when I read about people with the disorder or other mental health issues who take their own lives. Recently the man who voiced Charlie Brown, Peter Robbins, took his own life after a long battle with Bipolar Disorder.
Kanye West, Demi Lovato, Mariah Carey, Carrie Fisher, Mel Gibson and Russell Brand are a few celebrities who are affected. Richard Dreyfuss, Francis Ford Coppola, Stephen Fry, Linda Hamilton, Ted Turner, Brian Wilson among others.
For me, I just know that I need to stay on top of my medications. I can’t miss doses even though sometimes I really want to (a story for another post). And I need to monitor my depressive cycles and anxiety, never letting them get too far or too deep when I do experience them.
Far too often on the Bipolar Support forum that I belong to, people will say things like, ‘I made it to 33’. Like birthdays are major wins. I hope that really hits home with people that think that this disorder is a choice. No one would choose to feel like this.
I often wonder what the statistical breakdown for suicide is. How many of those were untreated individuals, no medication or no therapy? How many of them had repeated attempts or thoughts about suicide? If they were on medications, did it take a long time to get them sorted out or were they still having difficulties finding the right drug and dose? I have so many questions. Did they have a support system? Were they employed? Were they low income, unable to access resources? There’s so many factors and I feel like the more I know, the more I can absorb, the better able I am to make sure I don’t hit that point.