After much research, discussion and reflection, it's apparent that there are an array of conflicting opinions and views regarding the Channel 4 Documentary Being Bipolar which aired 4 March at 10pm. Each view is as valid as the next, but here's some of the issues raised and positive points that have been highlighted.
Firstly, the title - 'Being Bipolar'. This instantly created animosity as those living with bipolar ARE NOT their diagnosis. They are do not become bipolar itself. They are simply human beings like everyone else living with a mental health illness called bipolar. You wouldn't name a documentary about those with the flu 'Being The Flu', so why is that ok when it comes to mental illnesses?
The documentary certainly sparked a lot of discussion about bipolar, what that means for those living with it, and what it's like for the loved ones of those diagnosed with bipolar.
In a world, where taboo topics of conversation still exist, and where fear and silence fills any space where there's a lack of knowledge or understanding, it was great to see a topic being openly discussed on such a large scale...or is it?
Some people are of the opinion the documentary could be damaging towards the reduction of stigma surrounding bipolar as not all conversations stemming from the programme will be well-informed or healthy. This is partially due to the ill-informed presenter, and her heavily biased direction within the documentary.
Those arguing this point highlighted her approaching the programme with preconceived ideas about bipolar. However, others have the opinion that there was nothing wrong with that. It is said that viewers with little or no knowledge would be approaching the programme in the way. With ideas about bipolar, what it is and what causes it, and so the documentary could be used as an exploratory programme. As long as the presenter and viewers bring forward their preconceived ideas with an open mind to discovering new information and taking on the facts, what was the issue?
The presenter's views gave the documentary a footing, a place to begin investigating. Were her views widely agreed with, and if not, what other possibilities are there? What facts are well established by experts? However, even when presented with factual information, she seemed unable to detach herself from her initial view points which tainted a lot of the information conveyed.
Could the researches have chosen a more well-informed presenter, or was she chosen for a planned purpose? Did their approach work? What could be improved for next time, if there is one?
Despite the documentary taking this exploratory approach, there was a heavy bearing on psychological therapy being the ONLY right and proper course of action for those needing assistance with the symptoms of bipolar. Of course this is simply not true. There are a range of medications also available, although in many cases that I have learnt of, there is a good result of better management when a happy medium is balanced between medication and physiological therapy.
After reading through many discussions, and watching the programme a second time, it became clear that there wasn't much of a balanced argument for medication from the presenter. Many were left feeling as though those on medication were being portrayed as weak. Of course, in reality, the need for medication is not a weakness by any means. The fact that those in difficult situations have taken the courage to reach out and seek the help they have needed shows true strength, as being open and honest with admitting we are struggling with what we are dealing with can be incredibly difficult.
The documentary, in my opinion, clearly demonstrated that bipolar can be a entirely different experience for each person, and that there is a great need to focus more on the individual and their needs, rather than their diagnosis label. This is something which I believe to be vital in discussions. It has become so easy to see a a diagnosis and mark someone with that label, yet that does not give any insight into each individual person's life, experience, or needs. Even with a diagnosis, no two cases are the same, and there is not one solution for all. In fact it is quite the opposite.
It highlighted and important point. Is there a solution at all? The cause of bipolar is unknown, and it was evident from the programme that experts in the field have conflicting theories due to lack of researched understanding, and therefore there appears to be no cure, no solution to fix, but there any many options and possible pathways to management of the symptoms which appears to be key in living life with bipolar.
Overall, I think the documentary highlighted key points in discussions sounding bipolar- how there is no concrete answer for its cause (or whether there are many causes), the lack of understanding by experts of what is actually happening in the body or mind during a bipolar episode, or if there is even a cure. It's an area of medicine thoroughly lacking understanding. Though, Being Bipolar demonstrated how vast the experiences of one diagnosis can be, and displayed true life experiences without stigmatizing or giving in to stereotypes, opened up opportunities for discussion and paved another step forward in reducing the stigma surrounding one of the many mental health issues. However, it was massively let down by the biased view of the presenter and her inability to 100% let go of her preconceived ideas, the massive weighting that had on the direction of the programme and the information it sought out, the title itself, and the negative attitude towards medication as a whole.
One thing is for certain, it has sparked a lot of emotional reactions from many of it's viewers. Positive or negative, conversations have been started, much to the delight of mental health campaigners!
Want to know more, or need to talk? Here are some helplines/places of information for the UK.
08457 90 90 90
Talk to us any time you like, in your own way, and off the record - about whatever's getting to you.
NHS Urgent Care Service
You should use the NHS 111 service if you urgently need medical help or advice but it's not a life-threatening situation.
0300 123 3393
Mind are open Mon-Fri 9am to 6pm, to help you make more informed choices about your situation. Perfect if you're struggling with life decisions.
0845 767 8000
SANE runs a national, out-of-hours mental health helpline offering specialist emotional support and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including family, friends and carers. Open every day of the year from 6pm to 11pm.
08444 775 774
The AUK infoline is available to provide information and advice on the appropriate self help resources and products available to support people with anxiety
Young Minds Parent Helpline
0808 802 5544
Currently Young Minds only provide a helpline for parents who are worried about their child's mental health
Mind - www.mind.org.uk/
SANE - www.sane.org.uk