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Mental health Bipolar disorder

A family disease
Parents who are aware of a family history of depression and bipolar disorder need to be educated on the symptoms. "There are genetic factors that predispose people [to depression]," says Dr. Zamvil. Changes in neuro-chemicals in different regions of the brain alter people's moods and behavior.

Still, forty-three percent of people surveyed consider depression a character flaw. 1

"This is a very painful illness, not just for the person suffering, but for the entire family," Sherri says. "There's a stigma behind mental illness. People don't want to admit it and, therefore, don't take their children to the doctor."

The stigma is just what motivated the Reddicks to open up about Erin's bipolar disorder. "We've become advocates," she says, "and we're not embarrassed."

Be aware of the symptoms
"We need to realize how devastating this disorder can be," says Dr. Zamvil. "Often people are told, 'It's all in your head; you have control over it.' That's not true. People with depression and bipolar disorder need treatment."

At least three of the following symptoms are needed to suggest that someone may be suffering with a bipolar disorder:

• Feeling invincible
• Needing little sleep (2 to 3 hours per night)
• Talking constantly, at a rapid rate
• Having racing thoughts
• Being easily distracted
• Being unusually active

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1. National Mental Health Association.

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