Every year, World Bipolar Day takes place on March 30, which is Vincent van Gogh’s birthday. This choice of date is intentional because several years after his death, experts diagnosed the artist as likely having had bipolar disorder.

More than 45 million people around the globe have bipolar disorder, including an estimated 7 million individuals in the United States.

Besides depression, bipolar disorder is one of the most common mood disorders in the U.S.

Despite the high prevalence of bipolar disorder and greater efforts by healthcare professionals and society to destigmatize mental illness, a 2021 survey from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that 84% of adults consider stigma to be a significant barrier for people getting access to treatment for mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder.

The goal of World Bipolar Day is to help reduce the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder and improve the lives of people with the condition through:

  • education
  • discussion
  • awareness

Whether a person has bipolar disorder, knows someone with this condition, or just wants to make their community more inclusive, there are many ways to get involved on World Bipolar Day.

Talking openly about mental health is one of the best ways to reduce the stigma around it.

According to a 2019 study, sharing personal experiences about mental health can help reduce stigma and promote:

  • connectedness
  • validation
  • hope and empowerment
  • appreciation

Sharing stories of living with bipolar disorder on social media sites and online forums is a great way to help other people who may be experiencing the same symptoms or challenges.

According to a 2020 survey, three-quarters of U.S. teens and young adults who experience depression symptoms will search online for help, specifically looking to learn from other people’s own experiences through:

  • blog posts
  • podcasts
  • videos

Get involved online

On March 30, people can use the hashtags #WorldBipolarDay and #bipolartogether in their social media posts to join the conversation, according to the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF).

How allies can help

A person may feel most comfortable first sharing their story with a close friend or family member. No step is too small to start creating awareness and celebrating the lived experiences of people with bipolar disorder.

Those looking to support someone else with bipolar disorder should never rush them into sharing their story or make assumptions about their experiences.

Creating a safe space in which a person feels heard and avoiding stigmatizing language are important steps to take when approaching these conversations.

Certain online resources, including one from MakeItOK.org, can help people choose the right things to say in conversations about mental health.

Allies who are sharing others’ stories online should be mindful of the language that they use to discuss bipolar disorder. They should avoid harmful stereotypes and remember that a health condition does not define a person, although some people may choose to identify closely with it.

For people living with bipolar disorder, World Bipolar Day represents an opportunity to learn more about their condition, the available treatment options, and strategies for coping with its effects on everyday life.

For people who do not have bipolar disorder, being a good ally means having an informed view of bipolar disorder and how it affects people living with the condition. Being proactive about learning and not relying on others to do the educating are great ways to be supportive.

Many educational resources are available online to help people learn more about bipolar disorder.

The IBPF and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) provide articles, videos, and webinars on their websites for people interested in learning more about bipolar disorder. Experts in the field and people living with the condition have contributed to the development of these resources.

A person can also sign up to receive the IBPF’s newsletter, which includes information on:

  • research updates
  • expert Q&As
  • community initiatives
  • health and wellness tips

Many of the organizations that support people with bipolar disorder rely on donations. These donations support the provision of resources for both patients and providers, including:

  • educational resources, such as webinars, articles, and print resources
  • community outreach, such as public or online events
  • conferences and learning courses
  • online and in-person support groups

Donations may also fund or contribute to research on bipolar disorder. Research dollars help uncover:

  • the natural history of bipolar disorder
  • the safety and efficacy of current and emerging treatments
  • new ways to help people across the spectrum of bipolar disorder

In addition to the IBPF and the ISBD, some other organizations supporting people with bipolar disorder include:

A more comprehensive list of organizations and resources for people with bipolar disorder around the world is available on the ISBD’s website.

To increase the impact of donations, a person can also consider fundraising for one of these organizations.

Research is the cornerstone of advancements in medical care, including care for mental health.

Outside of donating money to research, a person living with bipolar disorder can consider participating in research studies to help improve knowledge about treatments, how to make an early diagnosis, and more. Clinical trials cannot happen without people participating.

Psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals can provide more information about local research opportunities. The ClinicalTrials.gov website also includes information on a variety of active and recruiting clinical trials.

There are two main types of clinical trials to consider when thinking about participating in bipolar disorder research:

Interventional studies

These studies measure the effects of an intervention, such as a drug or a therapy program, on behavioral changes in a group of people. People who participate receive the intervention as part of the study, and the researchers assign them to it. These studies can sometimes be time-consuming, and a person can only participate in one at a time.

Observational studies

These studies look for patterns in data that scientists have collected from people who do not receive a specific intervention. The researchers may still observe people who have received certain treatments as part of their routine care, but they do not control which participants get them. Participating in this type of study may require the completion of questionnaires.

Each year on March 30, World Bipolar Day represents an opportunity to create awareness and build a community around people with bipolar disorder.

Although communities are taking steps to reduce the stigma around mental health, there is a long way to go.

There are lots of ways to get involved — both for people who have bipolar disorder and those who want to support them. A person can help by:

  • talking openly about their personal experiences with bipolar disorder
  • creating space for others to share their experiences
  • using World Bipolar Day as an opportunity to learn more about the condition
  • donating to or participating in clinical research