From Awareness to Action: Insights on World Bipolar Day

Written by: Sabeeha Azmi

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

World Bipolar Day is commemorated annually on March 30th, to raise awareness and advocate for bipolar disorder. It presents a great opportunity to educate the community and improve support and resources for individuals with bipolar disorder. This initiative aims to reduce the stigma surrounding this mental health condition, and to enhance and promote mental wellness within societies worldwide.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that is characterised by extreme mood swings that range from depressive lows to manic highs, and affects millions of individuals worldwide. It can result in shifts in mood, activity, and energy levels. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience episodes of mania, which can include impulsivity, elevated mood, a significant increase in energy levels, etc. These can also alternate with episodes of depression, which include feelings of hopelessness, low mood, fatigue, etc. (Grande et al., 2016). Bipolar disorder exists on a spectrum with different subtypes and varying degrees of severity. Symptoms can vary in intensity and frequency, impacting various aspects of an individual’s life including work, interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, and daily functioning (Vieta et al., 2018). Living with this mental health condition can be challenging, but with the right support and treatment, individuals can manage their symptoms effectively and lead fulfilling lives (Chia et al., 2019).

Despite the high prevalence of bipolar disorder, it is apparent that there is a significant lack of understanding and awareness surrounding this complex condition. Thus, World Bipolar Day serves as a pivotal platform for fostering empathy and challenging misconceptions about individuals navigating bipolar disorder.One of the main goals of World Bipolar Day is the de-stigmatisation of the disorder. When stigma is associated with mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, it can cause a barrier to seeking help and receiving the necessary support (Hawke et al., 2013). By promoting open and authentic discussions and educating communities, this day contributes to honing a more supportive and inclusive environment.

In addition, World Bipolar Day encourages individuals with this condition to have open dialogues about their experiences and challenges with their friends and family. It emphasises the importance of proper diagnosis, early detection, and receiving effective treatment. Through outreach efforts, programmes, and informative campaigns, the day allows individuals to feel empowered to recognise their symptoms, seek professional support, and access appropriate and sound resources (Chia et al., 2019).

An essential aspect of World Bipolar Day is highlighting the lived experiences of individuals with this disorder. Testimonials and personal stories from them and their families provide us with valuable and authentic insights and perspectives into the daily realities of managing and living with bipolar disorder. A sense of empathy and understanding is fostered by sharing these narratives, helping communities to become more aware and supportive (Veseth et al., 2012; Warwick et al., 2019).

This day serves as an important reminder of the significance of mental health awareness and advocacy. Through increasing understanding, challenging stigma, and promoting compassion and empathy, this global initiative strives to enhance the well-being of individuals with bipolar disorder. It also encourages communities to prioritise mental health, give support to one another, and work towards creating a more inclusive society.

As we continue to revisit the spirit of World Bipolar Day every year, let us foster a culture of consideration and care for everyone navigating the complexities of mental health challenges. Together, we can step forward and break down barriers for the emergence of holistic wellness for us all.


Chia, M. F., Cotton, S., Filia, K., Phelan, M., Conus, P., Jauhar, S., Marwaha, S., McGorry, P. D., Davey, C., Berk, M., & Ratheesh, A. (2019). Early intervention for bipolar disorder – do current treatment guidelines provide recommendations for the early stages of the disorder? Journal of Affective Disorders, 257, 669–677.

Grande, I., Berk, M., Birmaher, B., & Vieta, E. (2016). Bipolar disorder. The Lancet, 387(10027), 1561-1572.

Hawke, L. D., Parikh, S. V., & Michalak, E. E. (2013). Stigma and bipolar disorder: a review of the literature. Journal of Affective Disorders, 150(2), 181-191.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Bipolar disorder. National Institute of Mental Health.

Veseth, M., Binder, P. E., Borg, M., & Davidson, L. (2012). Toward caring for oneself in a life of intense ups and downs: a reflexive-collaborative exploration of recovery in bipolar disorder. Qualitative Health Research, 22(1), 119-133.

Vieta, E., Berk, M., Schulze, T. G., Carvalho, A. F., Suppes, T., Calabrese, J. R., Gao, K., Miskowiak, K. W., & Grande, I. (2018). Bipolar disorders. Nature Reviews Disease Primers, 4(1).

Warwick, H., Tai, S., & Mansell, W. (2019). Living the life you want following a diagnosis of bipolar disorder: A grounded theory approach. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 26(3), 362-377.

What are bipolar disorders? – What Are Bipolar Disorders? (n.d.).

Understanding the Connection Between Alcohol Use and Mental Health

Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga

Photo by Canva Create Studio

Did you know that alcohol is one of the most extensively used addictive substances in the world? Its availability and acceptance within society are what lead to its widespread use, with many people using alcohol to relax and cope with various stressors. However, it’s important to remember that excessive alcohol use can negatively impact one’s mental health.

How Does Alcohol Use Impact Mental Health?

Alcohol use can negatively impact mental health in various ways, ranging from short-term effects to long-term consequences.

1. Depression and anxiety

Alcohol can indeed make people feel relaxed and euphoric. However, these feelings are temporary and can interfere with neurotransmitter balance in the brain over time. This means that if you already have anxiety or depression, you are more likely to trigger or intensify your symptoms with the use of alcohol. Previous research has also found that greater levels of depression symptoms are connected with earlier alcohol use, more frequent drinking, and intoxication in both Norwegian secondary school girls and boys (Johannessen et al., 2017).

2. Cognitive impairments

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means that it decreases cognitive functioning. Therefore, even moderate amounts of alcohol can cause cognitive impairments. Long-term and excessive use of alcohol can cause structural and functional brain damage, resulting in alcohol-related dementia (ARD). Cognitive impairments are most commonly found in visuospatial functioning, memory, and executive tasks, with the possibility of some recovery if abstinence is continued (Sachdeva et al. 2016).

3. Sleep problems

Alcohol may help people fall asleep faster, but it also interferes with the sleep cycle, resulting in irregular sleep patterns. Therefore, a variety of behavioural challenges, including sleep problems are reported in 35%–91% of patients presenting with long-term alcohol use. The most common sleep problems related to alcohol use are difficulty falling asleep, decreased sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness. These sleep problems also remain throughout alcohol withdrawal, but have been reported to disappear with continuous abstinence (Martindale et al., 2017).

4. Aggressive behaviours

We are all familiar with how drinking alcohol impairs judgement and reduces inhibitions. This can then result in both verbal and physical aggression. However, it is important to understand that not everyone who uses alcohol becomes aggressive, and the degree to which alcohol enhances aggression varies depending on genetics, personality factors, prior experiences, and environmental conditions. However, alcohol use can be harmful to society, since evidence suggests that higher rates of alcohol use are associated with higher rates of homicide and violent crime (Fritz et al., 2023).

5. Risk of suicidal ideation and behaviors

Alcohol use is closely connected to an increased risk of suicidal ideation and behaviour. More specifically, alcohol’s depressive effects combined with impaired judgment and impulse control can lead to self-harm or suicidal behaviours. Furthermore, long-term alcohol intoxication can increase maladaptive coping strategies and impair self-regulation in those who are predisposed to risk-taking behaviour, raising the risk of suicide (Rizk et al., 2021).

What are the Strategies for Reducing Alcohol Use?

Reducing the use of alcohol is a difficult but attainable goal when different strategies and support systems are put in place, as explained below.

1. Setting clear and realistic goals for alcohol use is important. Whether it’s reducing the number of drinks per week or completely avoiding drinking alcohol, having a particular goal can increase your determination.

2. Keeping track of alcohol use can help people become more mindful of their drinking habits. Keeping a journal or recording the number of drinks taken in a smartphone app, along with the triggers of drinking alcohol, can provide useful insights and help you detect patterns in your drinking behaviour.

3. Minimising access to alcohol, such as not having it at home, or avoiding situations where alcohol is readily available, can help reduce the desire to drink.

4. It is important to identify other strategies for coping with stress, anxiety, and other difficulties rather than turning to alcohol. At times like this, you can try things like exercise, meditation, creative hobbies, or spending time with supportive friends and family.

5. Don’t forget to celebrate achievements and progress towards reducing alcohol use, no matter how little, because it can enhance your motivation and self-esteem to keep working towards your goals.

6. If you feel like you cannot reduce your alcohol use by yourself, it is always better to seek professional help from a therapist, counsellor, or support group.

In conclusion, alcohol use can have a significant impact on mental health, affecting mood, cognition, sleep, and relationships. By adopting healthy strategies into your daily routine, you can take active steps to reduce alcohol use and promote general well-being. It’s also important to remember that making changes takes time, patience, and effort, and seeking help from professionals and loved ones can make the road to abstinence easier and more rewarding.


Fritz, M., Soravia, S. M., Dudeck, M., Malli, L., & Fakhoury, M. (2023). Neurobiology of Aggression-Review of Recent Findings and Relationship with Alcohol and Trauma. Biology, 12(3), 469.

Johannessen, E. L., Andersson, H. W., Bjørngaard, J. H., & Pape, K. (2017). Anxiety and depression symptoms and alcohol use among adolescents – a cross-sectional study of Norwegian secondary school students. BMC Public Health, 17(1), 494.

Martindale, S. L., Hurley, R. A., & Taber, K. H. (2017). Chronic Alcohol Use and Sleep Homeostasis: Risk Factors and Neuroimaging of Recovery. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 29(1), A6–A5.

Rizk, M. M., Herzog, S., Dugad, S., & Stanley, B. (2021). Suicide Risk and Addiction: The Impact of Alcohol and Opioid Use Disorders. Current Addiction Reports, 8(2), 194–207.

Sachdeva, A., Chandra, M., Choudhary, M., Dayal, P., & Anand, K. S. (2016). Alcohol-Related Dementia and Neurocognitive Impairment: A Review Study. International Journal of High-Risk Behaviours & Addiction, 5(3), e27976.

How Making and Maintaining Meaningful Connections Enhances Mental Well-being

Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Today’s society is frequently dominated by digital interactions and short-lived relationships. But it is very important for us to have at least one meaningful connection in our lives.

Whether it’s a long talk with a friend, receiving a hug from a loved one, or simply enjoying quality time with family, such a connection has a significant impact on our mental well-being.

Here are a few ways that making and maintaining meaningful connections can enhance mental well-being:

1. Reducing loneliness.

Loneliness is related to a range of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. However, meaningful connections can reduce loneliness. Having individuals with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings helps to build a support system that minimizes the adverse effects of loneliness. Previous research has also found a negative association between social support and loneliness, indicating that when social support increases, loneliness reduces in individuals (Zhang & Dong, 2022).

2. Improves emotional regulation.

Maintaining meaningful connections ensures that you have a safe environment to express your feelings without the fear of being judged. This will also make you feel understood and supported by others, and it further validates your emotional experiences, making it easier for you to regulate them. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to learn from the personal experiences of others, like how they managed their life challenges. Such guidance will give you helpful tools to manage your emotions in a better way.

3. Increased self-esteem.

Making and maintaining meaningful connections increases your chances of receiving positive feedback and support from others. Whether it is in the form of praise for accomplishments, or for your personality traits, such things help increase your self-esteem. Furthermore, meaningful connections prevent you from making negative social comparisons. This is because you will always have people around you who will encourage and support you rather than look down on you, thus allowing greater room for personal development.

4. Developing a sense of belonging.

Being part of a group doesn’t merely mean being physically there; it also involves feeling welcomed and being accepted on an emotional level. It is only natural for people to develop a sense of belonging when they are given the chance to express their views and feelings. Therefore, making and maintaining meaningful connections will improve your overall life happiness and mental well-being. A study by Skipper and Fay (2023) found that a sense of belonging predicted greater levels of mental wellness and lower levels of stress in 95 psychology and law students at an English institution. This demonstrates how important it is to feel accepted and respected by others to improve mental well-being.

5.     Lowering stress.

As mentioned earlier, meaningful connections provide a safe environment for expressing feelings and getting support during challenging times. This helps in lowering the impact of stress on mental health. Furthermore, associating with individuals who truly understand and see you on an emotional level causes the production of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which increases happiness and counteracts the harmful effects of stress on mental health.

6. Improved life expectancy.

Meaningful connections also promote greater general health and life expectancy. This results in a more rewarding and satisfying life, thus improving mental well-being. It also helps people prevent cognitive impairment and minimise their chances of developing disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Past research has also reported that having connections with others improves mood, lowers blood pressure, and reduces mortality (Martino et al., 2017).

Concluding thoughts…

Making and maintaining meaningful connections is essential for enhancing your mental well-being since it has many advantages, including reducing loneliness, developing a sense of belonging, improving emotional regulation capacities, and lowering levels of stress, among many others. No matter how difficult the circumstances may be, don’t forget to seek out meaningful connections – it is not only good for your mental health, but also for your general well-being to live a satisfying life.

Recognising Signs of Mental Health Challenges in Children and Adolescents

Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga 

Have you seen how sometimes adults struggle to recognize signs of mental health challenges related to children and adolescents? 

There are a few reasons for this, like not having enough knowledge about what a “mental health issue” is. Sometimes, we even normalize problematic behaviours, thinking they’re just a part of growing up. And let’s not forget the hesitation to talk openly about mental health, especially when it involves adolescents. 

But the truth is, early intervention can help children develop effective coping skills and improve their overall quality of life. So, in this article, we will explore physical, behavioural and emotional signs of mental health challenges in children and adolescents. 

Physical Signs: 

  • Frequent complaints such as headaches, stomach aches, fatigue, or body pain without a clear medical cause can be a window to how they are expressing the emotional discomfort, or it can be somatic symptoms associated with depression or anxiety. 
  • Changes in sleeping patterns, such as excessive sleepiness in the daytime or trouble sleeping at night, can indicate symptoms associated with anxiety, mood disorders, or depression. 
  • Sudden weight changes, such as losing weight due to poor appetite or gaining weight due to excessive snacking, can indicate symptoms associated with depression, eating disorders, or other mental health issues. 

Behavioural Signs: 

  • Longer periods of sadness, being irritable most of the time, and noticeable mood changes can be symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders. 
  • Withdrawing from friends, and family, and not being interested in the activities they once used to enjoy can be symptoms of depression, social anxiety, childhood trauma, or other mental health-related issues. 
  • Difficulty maintaining friendships at school or having little social interactions than developmentally appropriate can be symptoms of communication difficulties, social anxiety, childhood trauma, or bullying. 
  • Frequent conflicts with parents, teachers, and friends can be symptoms of emotion regulation difficulties or stress. 
  • Excessive worry about academics, social relationships, and even about simple day-to-day activities to the point that it interferes with normal functioning can be a symptom of anxiety or stress. 
  • Difficulty concentrating on studies and having a significant decline in cognitive performance (especially related to language) can be symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, learning disability, anxiety, or other mental health challenges. 

Emotional Signs: 

  • Intense feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and sadness can be symptoms of depression, low self-esteem, and childhood trauma. 
  • Unusual fear with anxiety attacks to the point that it interrupts daily functioning can be a symptom of anxiety disorder, childhood trauma, and bullying. 
  • Regular anger outbursts and unmanageable aggressive behaviour might be signs of conduct disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, or other emotional distress. 
  • Being overly sensitive to criticism can be a symptom of anxiety, low self-esteem, socialization issues, or other emotional distress. 
  • Having suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviours can be a symptom of intense emotional distress. Such signs should be taken seriously, and it is important to seek immediate professional help. 

In conclusion, recognising the signs of mental health challenges among children and adolescents is essential in the long run. So, what can you do about it? 

  • You should first let the children and adolescents know you are there for them. 
  • Create a safe environment that empowers and comforts them, which will create the basis for them to talk to you about anything. 
  • Encouraging the pursuit of creative outlets, such as drawing, writing, music, or painting, is also a great way to express and cope with difficult emotions. 
  • Raising awareness about the importance of a good lifestyle with a balanced diet, good sleeping routines, and physical exercise also works! 

However, if you feel your child is experiencing mental health challenges, speak with a mental health professional who specialises in working with children. This is because only mental health professionals can make an appropriate diagnosis and the necessary recommendations. 

And keep in mind that it is okay to look out for the above signs. But don’t jump to conclusions on your own. After all, one size does not fit all. What we can do is be compassionate and provide a safe space for children and adolescents to communicate their true feelings.