I stand with the 1 in 4 people diagnosed with a mental illness in thanking Catherine Zeta-Jones for the gift she gave to the world. Ms. Zeta-Jones’ disclosure of her bipolar II disorder, while saddening, helped show the world that mental illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of. Frankly, Ms. Zeta-Jones has done more to chip away at the stigma of mental illness in her publicist’s short, but powerful release, than almost any other person. And thanks to the marvels of the Internet, her words and actions have immediately promoted greater awareness of her mental illness…and therein lies the gift.
For too long our society has kept mental illness in a closet, and those diagnosed face an insurmountable crisis. Whether suffering as an adult or child from bipolar, depression or other brain and behavior disorders, the effect on millions of lives, and the lives of their loved ones, is devastating. And often, their pain and suffering happens behind closed doors, sometimes left undiagnosed and untreated. And while scientists in labs around the country are working to identify better treatments, therapies and, hopefully, cures, the world needed today’s personal disclosure almost as much as a new medicine.
History might very well look back at this as a defining moment that helped break the silence that has shrouded mental illness for generations. Yes, indeed, one person can change the world and Ms. Zeta-Jones has done exactly that.
Benita F. Shobe
President and CEO
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation*
*Formerly NARSAD, an acronym for National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression