The cliché is old and well-worn, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true: a picture is worth a thousand words. That is why, during my keynote presentations on mental illness and stigma, I often rely on evocative images which help capture and explain what mental illness is truly like.

Having experienced the dramatic symptoms of bipolar disorder, which included crushing depression and uncontrolled mania, one of my challenges is to help my audiences, many of whom have never experienced such things, to better understand. After exhaustive research, these are the images I chose for three key states:

Clinical Depression
The image above of the man enveloped in cloud perfectly captures the pure solitude, the lack of direction and vision, and the paradox of being simultaneously free but trapped.

The following image evokes a few key aspects of this intense and strange state, namely the sudden relationship with the night as sleep eludes for days on end and the sense of constant, spinning movement that prevents even a moment of rest.

After several years of bipolar disorder pushing me either up or down, I finally found an effective treatment and, quite literally overnight, felt “like myself,” absent of the symptoms of my illness. When you have fought so hard, and failed, for several years and then suddenly feel well again, it is like being let of a prison, one you began to think you would remain in for the rest of your life.

The image below, to me, perfectly captures the feelings of relief, excitement and wellness that I felt.

As a professional inspirational speaker, I share my story and how I learned about mental illness and stigma first through a heart defect, and later bipolar disorder. My expertise on this topic comes from comparing the two experiences, and realizing that stigma (which didn’t arise with my heart defect but was a massive barrier with bipolar disorder) played a destructive role.


About Jason Finucan

Jason Finucan is an inspirational speaker and expert on mental illness and stigma. He shares his personal experiences with both a major physical and mental illness during his impactful keynote addresses and workshops. Jason founded Empower Professional Services to partner with corporations and educational institutions so they may improve their ability to manage the negative impacts of mental illness – ultimately reducing stigma, creating increased knowledge and reducing lost productivity.

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