Catherine Zeta Jones and self-management in bipolar disorder

David Crepaz-Keay, Head of Patient and Public Involvement at the Mental Health Foundation:

Last week, actress Catherine Zeta Jones reported that she had been diagnosed with bipolar. Reaction to her disclosure has varied from the supportive to the cynical. Some have commended her bravery in going public with her condition, while others have questioned her motivation or expressed concern that it will lead to a rush of self-diagnosis.

I am not prepared to join in the ill-informed speculation about the precise nature of Miss Zeta Jones’ condition or her reasons for going public with it. However, having such a high profile person as Catherine Zeta Jones speak up about her condition might help break some of the stigma that surrounds mental illness and encourage people to be more open about their mental health issues.  Many people with who share her diagnosis, or have any serious psychiatric diagnosis, feel a sense of isolation and fear as a result of their condition. This coverage could help to reduce this, which can only be a good thing.

Living with bipolar disorder may not be easy, but there are many approaches people can take to mitigate some of the challenges that follow diagnosis. Self-management - learning to recognise and manage the effects of bipolar – is one such method we have been working with MDF, the Bipolar Organisation, to deliver in Wales.

The programme teaches individuals with bipolar disorder how to identify the triggers for, and warning signs of, an impending episode of illness. Participants learn to take action to prevent or reduce the severity of an episode. The course is continuously improved and updated as participants provide us with feedback and details of their experiences.

This programme of self-management courses is the largest initiative of its kind in the UK, and has so-far proved very successful with those who have completed the course. We are very much looking forward to the self-management courses we have planned for the rest of the year in Aberystwyth, Cardiff, Llandudno, Newport, Carmarthen, Wrexham, and Miss Zeta Jones’ home town in Swansea. In the meantime, anyone looking for more information about bipolar and the self-management programme please have a look at the Self-Management Project in Wales page.

Published 20 April 2011 |
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There are 9 comments.

  • Good on her! & all the best to her

    Anonymous 20 April 2011
  • Every celebrity and her dog is being diagnosed with BPAD of late. Read Bob Whitaker's 'Anatomy of an Epidemic'... The medicalisation and endorsement to medicate everything. It is great that this person can out herslf in this way but it isn't necessarily good news. She was doing pretty well before bing diagnosed I would have thought!

    Anonymous 05 May 2011
  • Would have been useful to mention Bipolar Scotland

    Anonymous 05 May 2011
  • It is good news that celebrities speak out with regard to Bipolar diagnosis. However, severity differs greatly in individuals and between Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2. Five days in private re-hab and then news/pictures of a supposidly recovered Ms. Jones refects a world away from this life long debilitating illness. My concern is that the media will influence public opinion into believing that every one with Bipolar will recover as quickly and simply as is now being commonly reported. Of course BP sufferers only know too well that this is not the case especially when support from private clinics and in some cases family is not available. I wish Catherine Zeta-Jones well, thank her for speaking out, but more importantly hope damage has not been done, inadvertantly, by trivialising this mentally crippling illness. (Mother of a 22yr old, academically high achiever - life devastated by onset of Bi-polar 1 two years ago)

    Lynne and Garry Pearson 07 May 2011
  • Totally agree with above - there's no quick fix to bipolar, you can learn over time to control it to a certain extent, but I must say until I did the Recovery In-Sight lifestyle development course including self-management, it was only then I was truly taught the knowledge, skills and tools to live a life with bipolar, not dominated and dragged down by it. It never goes away, but you are in control of it. I hope anyone who suffers with bipolar including Catherine Zita-Jones can learn how to manage their condition, as I feel I have.

    Anonymous 09 May 2011
  • having a mental condition that could be called bipolar in content,and is stress related.I see it is a normal condition,over motivation,could be the cause,just being too demanding,on one self that becomes a bad habit;triggered by stress, causing panic attacks.just an opinion,I have formed over many years;

    Ken Holmes age 80 09 May 2011
  • I applaud with every part of my being this courageous act by Catherine it will with no doubt help fight the stigma carried with brain disorders. What the world and media continue to think is first and foremost the responsibilty of those of us who suffer with this disease. No one can shed the light, educate and advocate more than we and hopefully those who love us. As for anyone who wants to trivalize Catherines struggle because she is wealthy I find sad and misguided. Is her pain less, her resources of course are of no comparison. So do we blame her because she has these resources and she can move on faster (anyone would be presumptious to comment her condition as we have no idea the struggle she faces everyday). Would you wish yet another person suffer another minute with this illness. Please check your facts, many BP people go through years of suffering before they are diagnosed correctly and since there is no cure and only treatment it is just the beggining of a serious life long challenge. The rate of diagnosed persons may be rising but it is for the most part not because doctors are throwing the diagnosis around to see where it sticks. Yes the medical community has much to learn but like all other people doctors must be taken one at a time and not painted with a broad brush. My heart goes out to anyone who lives with Bipolar Disorder and hope they are able to find healers who care. The fact that so few have found themselves to this site to comment is a commentary alone on the level of awarness and willingness there is to have a dialog. The disease needs a Foundation to raise funds for reasearch and continue to educate and advocate. It will come...keep the faith! IPW White May 2011

    Anonymous 11 May 2011
  • BP is not an end it is the begin of ordeal a new challenge for the rest of life to live

    Anonymous 16 August 2011
  • I manage my Bipolar fairly well as take medication which suits me, recognise triggers and stressors and self manage as best as possible. I devised the Expert Patients Programme New Begginings course which was adapted for mental health and it really does work. I use things such as relaxation, positive thinking and distraction to name but a few. Self care is so important and it worries me that the NHS still does not see it as an important part of any condition. It works when used on a daily basis and costs nothing compared to health care costs. Bring on the lay tutor I say.

    Phil 17 August 2011
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