Youtube turns out, no particular surprise, to be a fount of interesting info- and entertainment. After watching Stephen Fry about Gutenberg’s press, I came across a documentary he had done for BBC on bipolar disorder, also called manic depression. I found it very interesting because it lays out a good description of the illness and the consequences it has for patients and their families, all in a quiet and informative way that never becomes sensationalistic or titillating. It does become personal, though: You can see on Stephen Fry’s face in episode two, when he is informed of the severity of his own condition, that this is a hard message to get.
Mental illnesses are gradually becoming less of a taboo in society, and more and more we understand the underlying causes, though treatments to a large extent are experimental, treating symptoms rather than causes. This documentary, in an excellent fashion, shows the link between personality and illness – a surprising number of people with bipolar disorder like the manic phases, when creativity is flowing and inhibitions are lower. The illness is part of their personality as well, and potentially losing that is difficult choice to make.
Highly recommended. (The videos below may change, occasionally BBC kicks it off the ‘tube, then it appears again….)
Interestingly, this severe disorder is among the few psychiatric disorders that is not associated with a lower IQ than the normal population. In fact, it is associated with a higher IQ:
This could explain that the disorder has relatively high status compared to e.g. schizophrenia and unipolar depression.
This also explains why Stephen Fry could make this documentary, he is gifted.
I wonder how he did in school.
Stephen Fry did not do well in regular school – he was thrown out of two boarding schools and even spent time in prison for stealing credit cards. He pulled himself together after that and was admitted to Oxford (which has entrance exams). He is extremely intelligent, as witnessed both by his diverse output and comments by those who know him.