Depiction Suggestions

The following points for consideration were created as a resource for entertainment development and production. They are not intended to limit the creative process.

  • When addressing issues as serious as mental illness, try to show how many different issues have overlapping symptoms that may confuse patients–and sometimes even doctors–leading to misdiagnosis.
  • Keep in mind that bipolar disorder and major depression are often confused with one another, and attempt to show the major differences between the two.
  • Since treatments for depression and manic depression are different, consider depicting how misdiagnosis can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Try to show the full range of emotions associated with bipolar disorder–this includes not only serious depression that can lead to suicidal tendencies, but also extended periods of elation, excessive energy, and reckless behavior that may result.
  • Consider showing how a person with bipolar disorder may put his or herself in great danger during manic episodes. Such dangers could include unprotected sex, drug use, injection drug use, reckless driving, etc.
  • Keep in mind that during manic episodes people sometimes become so uninhibited that they forget they are in public, doing and saying things they normally wouldn’t.
  • Consider showing how the moods common to bipolar disorder (manic or depressed) can be misunderstood as another problem, such as depression or even drug use.
  • Manic states can make people act out sexually without thinking about the consequences. Consider showing some of the consequences of unprotected sex–from regret to STD infection.
  • Try to keep in mind that bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses have strong stigma associated with them, often prompting people to ignore their symptoms, putting themselves in danger. Think about ways to show how stigma associated with mental illnesses can cause people to suffer more than is necessary, and seeking treatment from knowledgeable experts can relieve many of the symptoms of most mental illnesses.
  • People with family histories of bipolar disorder are at a greater risk of suffering from the illness. Consider showing how families can be affected, including the person or people suffering from the disorder and those who do not.
  • Mental disorders such as bipolar disorder sometimes make being around the affected person difficult. Try to show how knowing the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder and the services and supports available, can help not just the person as an individual, but his or her personal relationships, as well.
  • Keep in mind that bipolar disorder does not result from isolated personal traumas, such as the death of a loved one or the breakup of a relationship.
  • People of every ethnicity and social class are at risk for bipolar disorder. Yet, people in specific populations, especially those in lower economic groups or immigrants who may miss out on English-language health news, are less likely to seek treatment because they may not know it is available to them. If you are dealing with characters included in one of these groups, consider showing how they might deal with their health problems, and how effective treatments are available.

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