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Mariah Carey just raised her voice about mental illness. The singer opened up about her longtime struggle with bipolar disorder for the first time in a new People interview.

Carey, who was diagnosed with the disorder in 2001, sought treatment after what she called the “hardest couple of years.” The stigmas of mental illness had a deep impact on the Grammy award-winning singer.

“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” Carey, who co-parents her 6-year-old twins Monroe and Moroccan with ex-husband Nick Cannon, said to People. “It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music.”

Carey is far from alone in her struggle with bipolar disorder, a mental health condition that affects millions of people. Though the perception is that mental illness is rarely discussed as an important topic of conversation within the African-American community, Carey and many others have detailed their health battles.

Carey’s confession also comes after several fatal police shootings of people of color battling mental health issues. Saheed Vassell, a 34-year-old Brooklyn man killed by New York Police Department officers on April 4, also suffered from bipolar disorder, his father said.

What is bipolar disorder?

Formerly called manic depression, bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings that include “emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression),” according to the Mayo Clinic. It is a lifelong condition that can affect your sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior and the ability to even think clearly. Mood swings can happen rarely or multiple times during a year.

Symptoms of mania and hypomania, less severe than mania, include being abnormally jumpy, having increased energy, being in a euphoric state, a decreased need for sleep, extreme talkativeness, racing thoughts and easily being distracted.

There are also different types of the disorder: bipolar I and II. Bipolar I is marked by a combination of manic, hypomanic and depressive episodes. Bipolar II is less severe, involving depressive and hypomanic episodes, but no manic episodes.

Carey is taking medication for bipolar II disorder, she explained to People.

What are common treatments?

The disorder is treated in two primary ways: medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy). Carey is in therapy and on medication, she said.

“I’m actually taking medication that seems to be pretty good,” the “Honey” singer said. “It’s not making me feel too tired or sluggish or anything like that. Finding the proper balance is what is most important.”

Though medications and therapies are common treatments, many folks find that it’s easier and better to seek remedies with the help of a support system or a community. As more and more people share their stories, dialogues about mental illness, including bipolar disorder, will surely help others to cope with these conditions.

“I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone,” Carey said. “…It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”


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