Last night, as I watched TV, I was introduced to a character with mental illness. As we campaign for minority groups to be involved in drama, it’s great to see mental health becoming part of our current media programming. I like seeing the different dimensions shown through drama of characters with mental illness. But what I find frustrating is the majority of characters seem to have bipolar, a condition now known to many. I have no problem with a character having bipolar, in fact I believe it provides an important and informative resource to people who are less knowledgable about mental health, but there are so many other illnesses that should be shown in dramas, interviews and in the media.
Characters with bipolar are increasingly gracing our screens, from Carrie in Homeland to Stacey Slater in Eastenders. There are also celebrities coming forward and talking about the disease, including Stephen Fry and Demi Lovato. But I don’t see conditions such as personality disorders and schizophrenia talked about, and certainly not with the same dimensions we see in characters with bipolar. My concern is that borderline personality disorder is not something that is discussed, seen or heard about, anywhere.
Having been diagnosed in January, I have been on a mission to find out more and begin raising awareness for this condition, which is too often brushed under the carpet. In the UK, BPD is as common as Bipolar, so why is the media attention surrounding the diseases so different? According to charity Rethink around one in every 100 people have BPD. And one to two per cent have Bipolar, according to Bipolar UK. Both conditions are rare, but one in four people will experience mental health illness of some kind, so why are we disproportionately talking about anxiety and depression?
The symptoms of bipolar are much more well known, but BPD can make you feel strong emotions that you struggle to cope with and you may feel upset or angry a lot of the time. People have BPD for different reasons but many will have suffered trauma in their childhood. This condition makes you more likely to self-harm and have problems with relationships, alcohol or drugs. Treatment often involves therapy.
There’s so much misunderstanding around this disease, I feel it is important to speak out in the media about my own experience and to see the condition featured more widely in documentaries and mainstream TV.
So here I am, as a 35-year-old, married mum-of-two, wanting to raise awareness, share my experiences and help others understand that more than one mental health condition exists. I can’t speak about the others, but I can speak about BPD. It’s time we shone a light on this illness and show how sufferers can have a positive impact on the world.