I wish you all much joy and happiness over the holidays! I have always loved the month of December. I love the season it brings, with the festivities, celebrations, and promise of the New Year. This year, the holidays will be very different, but still special.
This year, like no other, December marks a turning point. We have the vaccine for Covid-19. Words cannot describe the gratitude I feel towards the scientists who worked tirelessly to make this happen, AND to those who took the unknown risks of participating in the clinical trials. Your contributions are historic.
I am also particularly grateful to those among our amazing group of participants in the Prechter Program who responded to our invitation to share their experiences and feelings about the Covid-19 pandemic in the early phases of the outbreak. We learned first-hand of the frustration, anger, and helplessness of so many, and of the occasional person who liked the times alone in the security of a close-knit family. We learned that on average, the stress levels rose in everyone, but continued in those with bipolar disorder while dropping overall in those who have never had bipolar. The social effects of the pandemic are greater among those under 40 years of age and the personal burden is greater in women. I have spoken with many who have had Covid-19 and I am amazed at the wide range of the clinical manifestations -- from totally unaffected to being very ill in the hospital. My own family was also affected. I have a sibling who was ill for four weeks, half of the time hardly able to speak due to the Covid-19 cough, and who described the experience as the ‘worst experience’ of a lifetime. I am in awe of our front-line health care providers who redefine commitment and dedication on a daily basis.
What of the road ahead?
First and foremost, I am filled with optimism and belief in the core of humanity like never before. Yes, there will be difficulties ahead and yes, there will be sadness, and even despair, but we have experienced the turning point. The year 2021 will be one like no other.
As we move with the momentum that this new year will bring, I appeal to everyone that is affected by bipolar disorder to join forces with us. Your participation in the program generates information that will save lives.
We must learn more about how bipolar disorder is influenced by Covid-19. We will be sending out more questionnaires in the new year, and I thank you for your contributions! There may be biological influences and consequences of having the actual infection, even if there were no overt symptoms. There are social and personal consequences of the pandemic that will be with us for a long time, and for many these consequences will define their lives and those closest to them. All of us will be affected in ways that we are only just appreciating.
We have learned a tremendous amount in the past year and ‘2020’ will soon be a metaphor to summarize the ingenuity and energy that sustained us through the most difficult time in modern human history. While we are interacting online and through electronic representations of each other on a screen in our homes, amazing research is getting done. Research participants are engaged online. The work and research that we have been doing over the past decade is now the basis for additional computational research, asking specific questions about sleep patterns, temperamental variability among those with bipolar disorder, and so on. We are excited, energized and thankful for our partnership with our participants.
It is truly a privilege to wish everyone a joyous and meaningful holiday season! And it is with much enthusiasm that I say: “Happy New Year.”
Dr. McInnis is the Principal Investigator and Director, Prechter Bipolar Research Program;
Thomas B. and Nancy Upjohn Woodworth Professor of Bipolar Disorder and Depression;
Professor of Psychiatry;
Associate Director, University of Michigan Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg and Family Depression Center