About “Jolly or Bipolar”

Dear Editor:

I found the Thanksgiving issue article headline, “‘Tis the Season to be Jolly or Bipolar” and the section headline, “Tis the Season to be Schizophrenic” offensive and insensitive, especially coming from licensed mental health professionals. It seems to make light of these mental disorders. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are two very serious illnesses that dramatically affect the lives of those with the illnesses as well as those around them, and affected individuals have a high rate of suicide. The suicide rate for those with bipolar disorder, for example, is fifteen to twenty-two times the national average, and suicide rates among those with schizophrenia are ten to twenty times the average.

Depression and anxiety can obviously be extremely severe as well. Positive thinking does not cure these illnesses, but the article points towards positive thinking as an “antidote”. The article basically suggests to think positively as an antidote to being expected to think positively, since the writers postulate that holiday depression increases due to the expectation to think positively. This makes no sense to me. Bipolar is not the opposite of jolly. It’s much more complicated than that.

The references to these mental illnesses don’t even make very much sense in the context of the article. Schizophrenia is not a mood disorder, but the article tries to somehow tie it into emotions around the holidays. Those with mental illness often certainly suffer more around the holidays for a variety of reasons, but this article is not directed towards anyone with a serious mental illness and I just do not understand why these references were used. It further perpetuates misunderstandings in society about mental illness, which is a shame.

Lori Baur, MA, MT-BC
Board Certified Music Therapist
NY State Licensed Creative Arts Therapist

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