Last night, there was a programme on BBC2 (second in a series of two) in which Stephen Fry talks candidly about his life with Bipolar Disorder (manic depression). It was a frank and moving account, which looked at many aspects of this complex illness.
He spoke to people – both famous and members of the public – about their experiences, and for his own experience, added a very ‘real life’ persona to the one of creative genius that is so often portrayed in the media. He spoke to a couple whose daughter had taken her own life because she couldn’t deal with her Bipolar. They thanked him for making the programme, and said that hopefully, it would help people understand. Mr Fry said that’s why he was doing it – because the stigma of mental illness was incredible and unnecessary. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but that was the gist of it.
On the BBC website, there is a short interview with him, that asks the same question – why do the programme. Mr Fry responds:
“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.”
In those few eloquent words, Stephen Fry has captured the essence of why I write my blog. Aside from the rare and privileged part. The stigma of mental illness is something that really bothers me. I’ve lost count how many people say to me “but you don’t look mad..” Same with Stephen Fry. People see a successful writer and performer, a Cambridge graduate and Perrier Prize winner. I know I do.