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Hello gorgeous friends, you're looking quite splendid as ever. It's Mental Health Awareness Week and Month, and I've been rereading Kay Redfield Jameson's arrestingly brave memoir An Unquiet Mind; a mighty good read/listen. With all this mental health awareness swilling around I thought we'd fall in line with the theme.
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Making mental health visible: For what it's worth, I live with two chronic conditions: bipolar disorder and focal epilepsy. Both still carry a social stigma. I find it straightforward to talk about the experience of seizures, but it's harder to talk about mood. As we can only experience our own moods, and as our moods are affected by so many external factors, it's hard to relate to each other's experiences.

Our moods are also ephemeral; any given moment is less significant than the trends over time, and these changes are hard to describe. To overcome this, I began to record my mood every day according to Bipolar UK's mood scale. I now have three years' worthโ€”here it is in line-graph form:
Line graph of mood data. Can't see it? Click to view in browser.
The range shown in yellow is typical for most people, from a Blue Monday up to a Berocca Moment. The black line shows my average mood each week. This helps me to explain a few things about my experience of the disorder.

You'll see the 'tides' of hypomanic highs and depressed lows. It isn't a smooth, even sine wave: glorious hypomania comes on rapidly, whereas the descent into murky depression is gradual. You'll notice too now little time I've spent in the range between the extremes.

But you'll also see on the far right that my mood has been typical of late. Nine months ago, having consulted a psychologist, a neurologist and my GP about the mood data I'd gathered, I adjusted my daily medication. So far it's worked out well mood-wise; still a little way to go on side-effects.

If your own moods are within that typical range, it's difficult to relate to the experience of stepping beyond. This underpins the social stigma. I think that's why people say things like "why don't you just snap out of it?"โ€”this might work if you're at the low end of the typical range, for example, but not out in the extremes.

I'm sharing this data more publicly for the first time. Your understanding of mood disorders might now be a little better. I'm trying to be more open about this stuff, particularly with work and friends, so that I'm contributing to a broader demystification. It doesn't make sparkling conversation, but the consequences of not talking about it are worse still. And there is still much to do. โœŠ
๐ŸŽจ The Artistry of the Mentally Ill: This book from 1922 published fascinating work from patients with schizophrenia, in turn influencing Klee, Kandinsky and other avant-garde artists.

๐Ÿค˜The Quetiapine effects pedal combines distortion, delay and pitch modulation. Handmade in England by Pierrot Pedals.

๐Ÿ’Š Which came first: the condition or the drug? If bipolar disorder is a straightforward renaming of manic-depressive illness, then it's hard to explain how it came to include so many more people. This excellent article examines the flex in the concept of the condition over time, 'thus creating a market for antipsychotic or anticonvulsant medications that were initially approved only for the treatment of manic states'.

๐Ÿ˜ž A quarter of men said they have felt depressed because of concerns about their body image according to research by the Mental Health Foundation.

๐ŸŽผ 73% of independent music makers are suffering from mental illness according to a campaign backed by distributor Record Union.

๐Ÿ—‚ There is a mental health crisis in entrepreneurship. Research indicates start-up founders are twice as likely to suffer from depression, three times more likely to suffer from substance abuse, six times more likely to suffer from ADHD, and ten times more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder.

๐Ÿ“บ Are All Mental Illnesses Related? The former Commissioner of the FDA argues, against current research around chemical imbalance, for a 'unified theory' of all mental health issues, including addiction, depression, and overeating.
The stigma of treatment: It's a tired maxim, but if you had a chronic physical ailment but decided just to 'tough it out', your loved-ones would intervene to stop being so bloody stubborn. Yet the social stigma around mental health treatment persists. Campaigns like Wear Your Meds and #MyFavoriteMeds encourage conversation about medication by making them more visible. In that spirit, here's my little daily routine at the moment:
In 2003, The Sun reported on Frank Bruno's admission to a psychiatric hospital initially as 'Bonkers Bruno Locked Up', not only stigmatising the condition but also badly misjudging public opinion. Thanks to initiatives such as the media guidelines from Time To Change, the press is becoming less clumsy at reporting on mental wellbeing.

The BBC has made celebrity-fronted films on anxiety (tonight), psychosis and depression. Public figures of all kinds are more comfortable talking about their own mental wellness experiences, from Tony Slattery to David Harbour and Bebe Rexha. It'd be easy to be cynical but it's a refreshing improvement on talking about mental health posthumously. In terms of overcoming the stigma associated with mental conditions and their treatments, though, we've only just begun. ๐Ÿง 
Finally: 7 Up was laced with the mood-stabiliser lithium until 1948. Marketing hailed it an ideal hangover cure: "It takes the ouch out of the grouch". ๐Ÿฅค

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Have you found something I'd like? Is there something you'd like to see more of? Or anything else; I'd love to hear from youโ€”hit reply! Meanwhile all back-issues are in the archive.


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