According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance,
[Bipolar disorder] affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population age 18 and older every year…[and]…an equal number of men and women develop bipolar illness and it is found in all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes
The new TV drama Empire successfully raised awareness on this mental health issue impacting many. They also shone a light — intentionally or not — on how the disorder is seen in the Black community and has gone largely unacknowledged and undertreated. However, I believe they could have done a better job at this.
Unfortunately, bipolar disorder is a disorder with a large negative stigma attached to it. While many are cognizant of its existence, it is often viewed as a debilitating disorder that makes individuals that are diagnosed with it dangerous to themselves and others. This is not entirely true. Yet, because of this stereotype and many others, it is highly frowned upon in any community and especially in the Black community. A community that historically has found its men and women ostracized for the color of their skin and resistant to any other labels that segregate even further.
The problem with this resistance to its acknowledgement and symptom profile is that it often goes untreated. Untreated, this disorder can render individuals harmful to themselves and others, not just in life or death, but harmful financially, in their relationships, and medically.
Empire could have expounded on and challenged and debunked the stereotypes of the Black community better. It could have shone greater light in the various community and medical resources for treatment. Bipolar disorder is complex and not linear in its clinical expression, but is highly treatable with various treatments.