As a teen, how do I tell my friends that I have bipolar disorder?

Ms. Julie A. Fast
Mental Health Specialist

Bipolar disorder is no longer a taboo subject. I’ve heard kids in high school talk about it openly. My friend Amanda is in 11th grade, so I asked her what she knew about the illness.

Her answer surprised me.

“We talk about it at school. It’s not in a bad way. That is probably because I hang out with a lot of geeky artist types. We don’t care about someone having a mental illness. All we want to do is help. There is a guy we hang out with we are pretty sure has bipolar. He will talk about it sometimes. I do worry he will try to kill himself. But he seems ok these days. That is the problem. He goes up and down- which does sound like bipolar! You asked me know I know about it. I’ve studied it in psych class and my mom of course told me about you. When I met you, I was surprised that you just came out and said you have bipolar. That helped me when I talked to my friend. You gave me your book. It was easy to read and I talked to him about it. Our whole group talks about bipolar. I honestly don’t think it’s a big deal in our school, but maybe it’s just my own crowd. I would tell your friend to not be ashamed as most people don’t care at all. They are dealing with their own stuff. If they are weird, that is just ignorant. I would tell her to make sure she tells the right people and does it in a regular way. Don’t make a big thing about it. I know it is a big thing, but I mean telling someone doesn’t have to be a big thing. How would I say it? Well, I’m open to stuff like this so my friends would probably already know. I would say, “Hey guys, you may have wondered about my up and down moods. I had no idea what was going on. I got sick and went into the hospital. I now have to take meds and it sucks, but I’m going to do it. I don’t want to go back to the hospital. Do you guys have any questions about bipolar? Done! Your true friends will stick around and you will probably make more just because you are so honest."

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