Catherine Zeta-Jones' Honesty Helps Shed Light on Bipolar Disorder

Apr 14, 2011
Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.
Still smiling, after her successful treatment for Bipolar II Disorder. (Photo: Reuters Pictures).

It was a remarkably honest admission for a Hollywood A-Lister: Catherine Zeta-Jones acknowledged Wednesday that she had sought treatment for Bipolar II Disorder. 

In an industry that usually tries to hide its stars' problems with code words like "exhaustion" and "dehydration," Zeta-Jones' revelation was stunning in its candor. 

Few Hollywood stars of her caliber have ever taken a similarly public step. But Zeta-Jones' public statement is helping shed light on this particular form of manic depression, and may go a long way towards removing the stigma associated with mental illness.

The particular condition that the Chicago star said she battles—Bipolar II Disorder—is a form of the disease characterized by deep periods of depression, alternating with manic (or "up") episodes. It is a less severe form of bipolar disorder, which is marked by sharp mood swings and erratic behavior. 

Bipolar II can be treated with medication or therapy. Zeta-Jones did not say where or when she sought treatment, other than to say she spent five days at a professional mental health facility. 

She had been coming off of a particularly stressful year, with her husband, the actor Michael Douglas, battling stage 4 throat cancer. Douglas announced in January that his tumor was gone, and Zeta-Jones' statement stressed that she was looking forward to beginning work on two upcoming films. That last point underscores that there's no shame in seeking assistance, and that treatment can help people steer their lives onto normal and productive tracks.

And maybe that's why this story struck us as so important here at TakePart HQ. Too often, people struggling with mental illness find themselves looking at a world without hope or solutions for dealing with the depression, anxiety, addiction, or self-injury that plagues their lives. 

By seeing someone as prominent as Catherine Zeta-Jones—a woman who commands the attention of paparazzi and reporters worldwide—publicly and successfully acknowledge and treat her own Bipolar II Disorder, perhaps someone sitting at home might find the motivation to seek treatment.

Here at TakePart HQ, some of our own colleagues at parent company Participant Media have been grappling with these same issues as they work on the launch of their latest film The Beaver, from director Jodie Foster. 

The film tells the story of a once-successful toy executive who battles his own demons to get his life back on track. The (if we do say so ourselves) stellar social action campaign tied to the movie is working to de-stigmatize mental illness and depression, and provide the tools and resources for helping you or loved ones seek treatment and help.

Head over to The Beaver page on TakePart and check out 5 easy ways you can help yourself, or someone you love.

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