Catherine Zeta Jones and self-management in bipolar disorder

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.