It is not good to suffer from any illness, disease, or condition, although of course it is the human condition that each of us (unless, pardon the morbidity, we are to die under the wheels of a car in infancy) will confront at least one of them.
But for some inexplicable reason, some conditions carry more stigma than others. Cancer used to be not only a potentially terrifying disease but an embarrassing one as well. Diabetes does not carry the same potential for mortification, although it too can be fatal.
It often is hard for people to say that they suffer from mood disorders, because that statement can put them at great disadvantage. When Dena Croog Cohen wrote a column she called “I have bipolar disorder” and published it in these pages, she was making a giant leap of faith, trusting that her community would be wise and kind enough to catch her.
She was right. It did. Instead of shunning her, the community noted and admired her courage.
It should not have to take courage to reveal that you have a brain-chemical disorder that affects your moods. (Of course all of us are affected by our own brain chemistry, but we have more forgiving, easier-to-deal with chemicals sloshing around in our heads.) But it does.
But many people here know that mood disorders have nothing to do with morality, sloth, or entitlement, and many people here, as everywhere, either have been touched by such a disorder or know someone who has. That’s why Ms. Cohen and Refa’enu, the organization she founded, are offering the community peer-facilitated support groups. (See the story on page 8 for details.) The groups will be a place where people who know they have a mood disorder can talk freely and safely with their peers, and where people who suspect but do not know that they have a disorder can get a better sense of themselves.
We admire Ms. Cohen’s courage, and we hope for her success.