Shattering the stigma: Living and thriving with bipolar disorder

This blog was guest written by Brian Keavney, a manufacturing technician in AZFSM at Intel. He also serves as chair of the mental health awareness initiative with the Intel Disability Awareness Network.

About me

I am a high functioning, successful mental health patient working at Intel. I have a bipolar disorder that has affected me most of my adult life. I spent 15 years on an emotional roller coaster—it was my normal. Thirty years ago, nobody acknowledged or spoke about mental health and wellness; it was taboo. But after going through a yearlong depression 15 years ago, a respected colleague came to me and suggested I get some help. It took me three more months to admit I was struggling and get the help I needed.

For the most part I have been stable since then. I take an active role in driving my mental health care, especially when advocating for myself. Sometimes, I have to tell my doctor, “No.” You know yourself best. You must educate yourself, be mindful every day, and champion your own wellbeing.

Dispelling the myths

There are still misconceptions around mental health and illness. Mental illness is a medical condition, often caused by a chemical imbalance. Most disorders are treatable, and effects can be greatly lessoned—and sometimes fully resolved—if addressed early on. Unfortunately, too many individuals do not seek help or do so only when things have reached a point of crisis.

Mental illness is at epidemic proportions now. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Though treatments are available, nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional.

Apply those statistics to a company as large as Intel. You’re talking about 100,000 employees. That’s 25,000 people who are likely to experience a mental disorder, less than 10,000 of whom will seek help and more than 15,000 who will not get the help they need. That’s staggering.

My ongoing journey

I am extremely humbled by the support I have received from my team and Intel. I have received nothing but encouragement. My managers know mental health is a very serious issue today and they know it needs to addressed, especially in the manufacturing environment.

It’s my goal to open the conversation throughout Intel so that anyone who struggles with mental health understands that they are not alone. You may feel isolated, but there’s an entire community to support you. It’s okay to struggle—there is no shame in doing so, it’s normal. There is help available.

In the words of Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.”

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