Monday, May 18, 2009

Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive

"This two-part documentary investigates the reality of living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression.

Comedian, actor, author and film-maker Stephen Fry meets celebrities and members of the public who talk frankly about the impact the condition has on their lives.

During the two programmes, Stephen Fry talks in detail about his own experience of having bipolar disorder. He recounts his suicide attempt after walking out of the West End play Cellmates in 1995, and the continuing severe mood swings he has to endure.

Stephen Fry with Richard Dreyfus

Stephen interviews other celebrities with bipolar, including Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher, Hollywood star Richard Dreyfus and British comedians Tony Slattery and Jo Brand.

He also meets ordinary people and their families coping with the condition and talks to them about some of the possible triggers. They all speak candidly about how bipolar disorder has affected their day-to-day lives.

At a recent seminar on bipolar disorder at St Andrew's University, Stephen was asked by an audience of psychiatric students and practitioners about his reasons for making the programme.

Q: Why did you make the programme?

Stephen: I'm in a rare and privileged position of being able to help address the whole business of stigma, and why it is that the rest of society finds it so easy to wrinkle their noses, cross over, or block their ears when confronted with an illness of the mind and of the mood - especially when we reach out with such sympathy towards diseases of the liver or other organs that don't affect who we are and how we feel in quite such devastating complexity.

Q: What's your own experience of having bipolar disorder?

Stephen: I approach it from the point of view of one who suffers, according to a psychiatrist at least, from cyclothymia which is sometimes called 'bipolar light'.

I take that to mean I have most of the benefits of hypomania, a slightly less psychotic form of energy, vitality and exuberance and some, one hopes, creativity.There are certainly spending sprees but happily very little promiscuity. That's just my good fortune in this regard.

Q: Do you take medication?

Stephen: I'm fortunate enough not to be medicated or, so far as I can tell, need medication. But the idea that once you start on medication and each time you go off it you seem to get worse is a very grim one. It really is a very serious condition.

Q: What's covered in the programmes?

Stephen: We've tried to approach the condition from all kinds of angles. We've looked at the issue of self-medication. How so many people try and do the one thing they can in our culture that allows them to control their moods, however detrimentally in the end, with street drugs and alcohol.

We've looked at the whole aspect of sectioning and visited hospitals in some of the most deprived areas in Europe, such as Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

One of the most important things we've discovered is just how common a condition it is, and how it seems to affect everyone throughout our society, both here and in the US.

"It's rather splendid to think of all those great men and women who appear to have presented symptoms that allow us to describe them as bipolar, whether it's Hemingway, Van Gogh, Robert Schumann has been mentioned ... Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath ... some of them with rather grim ends."

Research into bipolar

During the documentary Stephen Fry participates in a bipolar mood disorder study. He talks to Professor Craddock and his research team at the universities of Cardiff and Birmingham. It's the largest study of individuals with bipolar disorder in the world. You can find out more about the research and how to take part on the Cardiff University website.

You may also be interested in the National Bipolar Twin Study being carried out at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London. This research is looking at the genetic and environmental factors that influence bipolar disorder. It's currently looking for more twin volunteers to take part."

This is from BBC. As always I like to show good things and people who are of great value beyond any doubt.


Unknown said...

Just wanted to thank you for posting this!

Ana said...

It's not me you have to thanks.
It's Stephen!
He is too bright and did this amazing documentary where he shows all the treatments and conclude saying he still doesn't know which one is the best for him.
I love his work as an actor.
Too, too bright and amazing human being.
These are the people that we have to think about when we go to sleep.