In an exclu­sive inter­view with MadameNoire for Men­tal Health Aware­ness Month, Jenifer Lewis opened up about her diag­no­sis with bipo­lar dis­or­der and her strug­gle to accept treat­ment.

“Some­times I sus­pect­ed that some­thing was not quite right,” Lewis said. “Espe­cial­ly dur­ing the time when the AIDS epi­dem­ic was at its height and my grief was pret­ty much out of con­trol. No one was talk­ing about bi-polar dis­or­der and men­tal ill­ness back then. I had lost so many friends and loved ones. My spi­ral into depres­sion was over­whelm­ing; I could not func­tion. That’s when I couldn’t ignore the fact that some­thing was wrong any­more.”

Lewis was first diag­nosed with bipo­lar dis­or­der in 1990. How­ev­er, she neglect­ed the required med­i­c­i­nal treat­ment for the dis­ease for four years.

 “I didn’t want to take the med­ica­tion at all. Nobody ever real­ly does.”

“I was see­ing a psy­chother­a­pist and that was very help­ful, but I was hell-bent on not tak­ing med­ica­tion because I did not want it to inter­fere with that extra edge, that extra high that we get.

Lewis not­ed it was at the advice of a friend that she then sought help:

“A friend of mine noticed that I wasn’t right and loved me enough to tell me. That’s what I real­ly want to get out there, that we all need to pay atten­tion. Pay atten­tion to your friends, pay atten­tion to that cousin that jumps up on the pic­nic table at the fam­i­ly reunion and goes a lit­tle too ‘nut­ty,’ you know what I mean? Pay atten­tion to that aunt that’s down in the base­ment that nev­er comes upstairs. We have to pay atten­tion to our friends, pay atten­tion to your fam­i­ly and offer a hand.”

“It doesn’t have to be a big deal.”

“There was no great reac­tion, every­body knew I was ‘crazy’ before and after the diag­no­sis. I was still me. It is true that [bi-polar dis­or­der] is a big deal, but if you learn how to man­age it, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. You can learn the skills to take care of your­self – just like I did.”

Read the full inter­view here.

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4 Comments on "Black-ish Actress Jenifer Lewis Opens Up About Living With Bipolar Disorder"

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Raymond Adams

Thank you for being vul­ner­a­ble, and dis­clos­ing this ill­ness­es for the rest of the Black com­mu­ni­ty to see and hope­ful­ly seek treat­ment from a trained, degreed, and licensed men­tal health pro­fes­sion­al.

ss (short & sweet)

A friend men­tioned they had the plea­sure of meet­ing Ms. Lewis on a cruise (years ago). They men­tioned she was so inter­est­ing and ener­getic — the joie de vivre was so “on” they couldn’t keep up. Bipo­lar dis­ease is like that. Through it all Ms Lewis remains an inspir­ing and beau­ti­ful per­sona. You are appre­ci­at­ed!


Glad she is get­ting help, we CAN’T ignore our­selves any longer!


I am glad she is final­ly real­iz­ing she needs help..Especially as black women, we are told to suck it strong, or some.other thing. We often act out in werid ways because we tru­ly need help. Good for her and oth­ers for much need­ed help.