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June Converse

Thriving After Trauma - Author and Writing Coach

Bi-polar Does Not Equal Criminal

Okay, I’m PISSED off …. Seriously PISSED off.

I read A LOT – up to five books a week – mostly romance and mystery/crime/psychological thriller. I also enjoy any mystery/crime television show. I have noticed a pattern – when the criminal is identified or profiled, they are often labeled as bi-polar. Bi-polar is like the go-to diagnosis for all criminals. Even on the news, when someone is arrested, they describe the suspect as bi-polar.

While it may be true that many criminals are bi-polar, it is NOT true that people who suffer with bi-polar disorder are criminals.

Now, in our current political environment, we are hearing the word ‘narcissist’. I even read an article written by a psychiatrist expounding on all the symptoms our president has for this diagnosis. THIS PSYCHAITRIST HAS NEVER MET the person he is labeling. Am I the only one seeing a problem?

Why Do I Care?

We, as a society, like to throw around labels that become judgments. Bi-polar and narcissist are the latest but not the first. Do YOU understand those diagnoses? Do you have preconceived notions? What if I mention multi-personality disorder – do you think of Sybil? What do you think when I say ADD? ADHD? Autism? Asberger’s? Eating disordered? How many of these do you REALLY understand?

I sat down at a luncheon recently where we each introduced ourselves. One of the ladies said these exact words: “I’m Tina. My kids are ADHD.” No joke. That’s how she started her introduction. It’s critical to note that this was not a mental health luncheon. This was a group of ladies at a craft fair. I cannot figure out why she felt the need to lead this way? Furthermore, I could not figure out what response I was supposed to have? I’m not embarrassed about my mental health challenges, but I don’t lead with them.

When did our diagnosis become our new nametag? Do we not see that throwing these labels around has serious consequences? If the label bi-polar is equated with criminal, how can someone with bi-polar disorder ever feel safe to open themselves to help? If psychiatrists are diagnosing people from the pages of magazines, what slippery slope have we stepped-on? How does throwing around diagnoses help create an environment of acceptance? Kate Middleton and many others have opened up lately about mental health issues – and that is wonderful! Wonderful, I say! But, we will never get to a place of openness, vulnerability, trust, if in the next breath someone uses a label they don’t understand in a negative light.

The young man that recently shot up a school is a great case-in-point. The very day he was arrested, the news announced several mental health diagnostic labels (including bi-polar). First, there is no way the media had access to this young man’s medical records (or if they did, it was violation of many laws). Second, my guess is that this young man needed more assessment before labels could be applied. Third, imagine you are a patient and just got the same label – or a parent whose child got the same diagnosis – do you see the problem?

Seriously, let’s say your teenager has just been told he’s bi-polar. You come home to watch the news and find that a mass murderer has the same label … think about it. What did the media report achieve? It’s likely accurate that the young shooter sufferers from bi-polar. But, I’d stake my life on the idea that there is much more. Yet, our society slaps on his bi-polar nametag and lets us make our judgments.

I’m not saying diagnoses are unhelpful – they are necessary to treatment. I am saying that diagnoses must remain in the realm of the specialists, the trained, the caregivers.

Am I just on a bitchy soapbox?? Probably. My husband, when he edits this one, may just tell me to hit delete!


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June Converse with purple hair
Choosing to rebuild a life after a breakdown has been a challenge. I became an author and a blogger who openly shares...


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