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Serious Moodswings: Bipolar Disorder

Serious Moodswings: Bipolar Disorder

By: Sandy Pascual

Anger, depression, happiness, and anxiety: moods we’ve all experienced. But what if you change moods instantaneously? For over 2 million Americans suffering from bipolar disorder, it happens! There’s no single cause for bipolar disorder, instead it’s caused by several factors acting together, such as genetics, drugs, brain infections, AIDS, hormone levels, tumors, epilepsy, and other neurological conditions. Unlike the normal ups and downs everyone goes through, bipolar disorder causes unusual dramatic mood shifts that can cause damaged relationships, poor job/school performance, and even suicide.

Annie Cabañas tells the story of her bipolar son. “Since infancy, Gabriel was aggressive and tough to raise. By age 5, he’d seen 7 psychiatrists, all diagnosing him with bipolar. School was difficult, but with help of a flexible program, medication, and family, he managed.”

On September 27, 2002, in their Homestead home, Gabriel became upset with his father, threw a book at him, and ran away from home. A week later, Gabriel’s black Chevrolet pick-up was found abandoned on a Broward road; he’d run out of gas and continued on foot.

The Cabañas received a call on October 3, 2002 from Boca’s Police Department; Gabriel was arrested while eating at a Burger King. Police say he wasn’t aggressive, but had previously broken into three houses to steal liquor and cigarettes. While in custody, Gabriel ran around shouting songs from a CD he had. When his parents arrived, he was overly friendly, talking a mile a minute, and ordered them to listen to his CD. As they were leaving, he escaped screaming, “Catch me Pigs!” It took another hour of searching to find him.

Two months later, Gabriel was acting up again. “He became violent at school and home. Doctors confirmed it was his bipolar, so the psychiatrists, probation officer, school, and we decided to admit him to a hospital again.”

Gabriel was in the hospital almost three months. “He slowly came back to his old self, except he was depressed; he couldn’t understand his actions, neither could we. I reached my limit of bipolar illness and didn’t want him home.”

At 16, Gabriel moved with his uncle in Minnesota. “He was better, fishing, hunting, playing pool. Sadly, one afternoon, his mood shifted threatening officers with a fishing rod, 3 officers shot him 5 times killing him instantly. It’s depressing to see this happen to anyone, he didn’t know he was wrong.”

With 1% of the nation’s population over 18 being diagnosed with bipolar disorder every year, it happens all the time! In Miami-Dade County 9.1% of the population has a mental disorder and, since 1999, 12 killings have involved someone with bipolar disorder; one of the most recent occurrences in February 2003.

Robert Stephen Mills III, 19, was shot and killed in front of an ex-girlfriend’s S. Biscayne Drive home after police say he “lunged” at 20 officers with a “weapon.” Officers fired at his chest as he held a piece of broken glass, his “weapon.”

Special training has been established for police forces to have a better understanding of mental disorders. Yet, they still fail to realize what bipolar disorder-individuals experience. As an officer, if your “life is threatened” with a “weapon” (a piece of glass or fishing rod), and you feel it’s essential to shoot, do so in a non-crucial area that won’t kill.

Our community needs to have an awareness of what bipolar disorder is and how it affects individuals. Learn more about bipolar disorder and find out what you can do to help!

*Anyone talking about suicide should be taken seriously and anyone thinking of suicide needs immediate attention. *


0 0 235 02 May, 2003 Health, News May 2, 2003

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