NEWSLETTER FOR MARCH
Written by: B. Antkow Rozek
Spring is just around the corner and for most people that means hope and renewal after the dark winter months. But not for all of us. March is Bipolar Awareness Month, and it is estimated that this serious condition affects about 46 million people around the world. There is a good chance that at least one friend or acquaintance you know is suffering silently with this condition. So how do you help?
WHAT IS BIPOLAR DISORDER, ANYWAY?
Bipolar Disorder is a complex and confusing mental health concern, and it can be hard to detect because the polarized symptoms vary and cycle differently for everyone. Most people have trouble dealing with emotions, but with Bipolar Disorder, the moods are often too extreme to be trusted. Sadness and lack of motivation can be hiding suicidal depression. Alternatively, joy comes with a euphoric surge of optimism and hope so powerful that decision making can become impaired. Impulsive irrational behaviours can become disruptive and even dangerous when the intensity of this condition is left untreated.
Sometimes it takes weeks or months for these polar opposites to cycle, but they can switch without notice and many people experience this yo-yo effect daily or even hourly. The unpredictability and speed with which Bipolar moods can change means that doctors have a difficult time witnessing the symptoms during scheduled appointments. The stigma associated with mental illness also keeps most people quiet, so many cases go undiagnosed. With devastating results.
Our objective at the Dakota Foundation is to help raise awareness and funding for early detection and treatment in people with Bipolar Disorder. Before the unthinkable happens.
In 2017, the National Institute of Mental Health found that on average, people with Bipolar Disorder lose about 9 years on their expected life span compared to their peers. Not only are these individuals trying to navigate the debilitating mood swings, they are also more likely to develop diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and stroke. There is a higher risk of migraine, asthma, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, thyroid disease and osteoarthritis. Also, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimate that 30-50% of people living with Bipolar Disorder will further complicate the condition with substance abuse, and about 16% will commit suicide because they can no longer cope.
Those are terrifying numbers. Especially since Bipolar Disorder is a highly treatable condition. Most people who stick with treatment are high functioning, hold normal jobs, and live meaningful lives. Medication can greatly reduce the intensity and relapse of bipolar highs and lows. Psychotherapy helps uncover the patterns and triggers that cause the terrifying extremes of Bipolar Disorder in the first place. Sadly, up to half of the cases we know about go untreated. Medication and therapy are very expensive, and many people have no idea where to go for help after their initial diagnosis.
WHAT WE ARE DOING
It is for this reason that the Dakota Foundation has teamed up with the Healthy Essentials Clinic in Lake Country. We have been able to provide funding to a number of people suffering with Bipolar Disorder who had no way to connect with professional and family support. This was imperative for their healing. We are so grateful to all those who donated funds to make this happen. It is an accomplishment we all share.
But we are not done.
Recently, we have hired Impact Events to help us create even more awareness for this important cause. Interior Beverages and its suppliers will be hosting fundraisers at designated bars and pubs here in Kelowna throughout the summer. Stay tuned for our dates and locations! At the end of summer, we are encouraging support with an exciting golf tournament. In October, you can find us at our annual fundraiser, where the OK Corral will be offering a night of fun and dancing in support of those with Bipolar Disorder.
That is not all we are doing. Our foundation is only 6 months old, and we have already given some financial support to The Foundry, a part of the Canadian Mental Health Association, because they work with youth.
This is an important step for us because Bipolar Disorder is highly inheritable. If one parent has experienced this condition, there is a 15-30% chance that they will pass it on to their children. If both parents have struggled with Bipolar, the chance of passing it on to the children becomes 50-75%! The majority of people are finally diagnosed when they are between age 18 and 29. However, the condition often occurs much earlier in life and many between 13 and 18 go unsupported, with the condition escalating as they age without treatment.
We are presently working to gain an introduction to high schools through the Foundry so we can explain the story of Dakota and her connection to street drugs in the classroom. We will do what we can to bring better awareness to the community so Bipolar Disorder does not have to become a fatal life sentence. But we cannot do that without funding. There are so many people who need help and so many that end their lives before they receive it.
Here at the Dakota Foundation, we want to stop pulling bodies from the river, and instead go upstream and find out why they are falling in to begin with. Bipolar Disorder is a very real and far-reaching health concern, both in Canada and the United States, where 2/3 of the population are touched by it, either personally or through a loved one.
Perhaps you know someone too? Will you join us in helping them?
You can visit us at www.dakotafoundation.ca if you would like to volunteer or donate funds directly. Also, stay connected with this newsletter so you don’t miss the dates for any of our entertaining fundraiser events in the future. With each donation, you will know that you are saving and changing lives. Your support will directly affect the quality of life for many people and their families.
Spring is supposed to be a time of renewal, bringing us out of the darkness. Let’s make this spring one of true hope. Together, we do make a difference.
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