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Destigmatising bipolar mood disorder can save lives

Life Healthcare leading the fight in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions in South Africa

Mental health conditions are amongst the most common health concerns reported throughout the world. In South Africa, it is estimated that one in ten adults1 will have experienced major clinical depression at some point in their life but only 25%1 have 1sought treatment and care.

Bipolar mood disorder is one of the most common mental health conditions and according to the World Health Organization, affect more than 45 million people around the globe.2 The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating socio-economic impact has added further insult to injury, resulting in an increase in the number of mental health condition cases including bipolar mood disorder.

Although there has been significant research on mental health conditions in South Africa, research on the prevalence of mental health conditions such as depression and bipolar mood disorders has been scant. According to the Global Health Data Exchange, the estimated prevalence of major depressive disorder in South Africa in 2019 was 3.14%, and the estimated prevalence of bipolar mood disorder was 0.6% (but this is likely an underestimate, according to specialists and experts familiar with the subject).3

Education and awareness for bipolar mood disorder are critical in addressing the stigma related to the condition and ensures that the individual, their family and friends can better understand the treatments available and support those affected to live fully functional lives. In particular, individuals living with severe bipolar mood disorder symptoms, or are not diagnosed or are receiving effective treatment may contemplate suicide, and in many cases succeed in their attempts. If receiving the right treatment and support, suicidal thoughts can be managed to reduce the risk of self-harm or suicide. Therefore, greater awareness about bullying within schools or the workplace should be driven to contribute towards fighting the stigma associated with mental health conditions.

Bipolar mood disorder may be categorised by either manic and depressive episodes or a combination of both which are mostly separated by periods of normal mood. Manic episodes involve endless energy, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep, feelings of unlimited power, increased substance abuse, poor judgement, euphoric mood, irritability and impulsiveness, among other symptoms.  

Depressive episodes, on the other hand, consist of anxiety, lack of appetite or excessive appetite, restlessness, self-doubts or feeling worthless, persistent sadness as well as suicidal thoughts in many cases, difficulty falling or staying asleep, loss of energy, inability to function at work, school and everyday life. People who experience manic episodes but do not experience depressive episodes may also be diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder. The exact cause of bipolar mood disorder is unknown, but several factors may be involved, such as biological differences where people appear to have physical changes in their brains. However, genetics is the more common indication where individuals have a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent, with the condition.

“Bipolar mood disorder can be a very devastating health condition that does not only affect the patient but the patient’s loved ones, friends and caregivers who often have to carefully navigate the effects that both manic and depressive episodes have on the individual and their family. Talking about signs and symptoms and educating people about effective treatment helps to destigmatise mental health conditions such as bipolar mood disorder. Mental health disorders are not something to fear and through empowering people with information we can make a difference in many people’s lives. With the right treatment, a multidisciplinary team approach and psychosocial support bipolar mood disorder can be managed,” says Dr Jorgen Kahler, a psychiatrist at Life Poortview.

Through Life Mental Health, a leading provider of private mental health services in South Africa, Life Healthcare provides comprehensive mental health care at nine dedicated facilities across four provinces.

“Our dedicated mental health facilities specialise in the treatment of general psychiatry such as the treatment of bipolar mood disorder, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health conditions associated with substance use disorders,” says Dr Kahler. Effective treatments for bipolar mood disorder are available at these Life Mental Health facilities to promote optimal health and the prevention of relapse. Life Mental Health treatment programmes are facilitated by multidisciplinary healthcare professional teams, developed to achieve optimal outcomes through the short-term treatment in tranquil and therapeutic environments conducive to recovery.

“We believe everyone deserves to live a fulfilling life and the dedicated and experienced healthcare professionals at Life Mental Health units are committed to trusted and compassionate care to help individuals navigate their mental health journey. Our approach ensures an individual treatment plan to assist and support them in being productive members of society, in the workplace and at home. Family sessions and support group attendance have also proved to be very powerful in providing ongoing support to the individual and their loved ones,” says Dr Kahler.

In addition to providing professional services through its dedicated Life Mental Health units, Life Healthcare also strives to create awareness of other mental health conditions by educating the public on how to identify signs and symptoms and encouraging individuals to get professional help and support.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from a bipolar mood disorder, it’s important to consult a mental health professional. This can be done directly or through your GP, or your nearest Life Mental Health facility.

For more information contact Life Mental Health on 011 219 9620, or visit:

Free Resource: Download our Bipolar Mood Disorders Treatment & Referral Guide or find your nearest Life Mental Health facility by visiting: