Bipolar Polaris from The Gifted X-Men Series Defies Stereotypes

Comics generally set a bad example when it comes to portraying characters with mental illnesses. Unfortunately, the screen adaptations of these characters fare no better. Among most of the villains in the Batman series, whether it is the criminal mastermind Riddler, fighting his compulsion to spout riddles even while pulling off a heist; or Mr. Freeze (Victor Fries) who is indifferent to all those around him, characteristic of either a schizophrenic personality or that of autism spectrum disorder; or the Joker who swings between sanity and sociopathic behavior, evil is disguised under the cloak of mental illness. What makes matters worse is that none of the villains is ever given a chance to redeem. They are instead locked up in the stone cold Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane for eternity.

Comics largely explore the dark side of a mentally ill person stereotyping them as insane who deserve to be locked up or beaten. However, some comic characters are exception to the rule. It has been highly debated whether the superpowers that superheroes in X-Men possess are actually a manifestation of their mental illness. For example, the memory artist, Ptonomy, who “time jumps” and has the ability to take people back to their memories is fixated by a past trauma. The new T.V. series based on X-Men confirms that a brave mutant, Lorna Dane or Polaris, who can control magnetism, suffers from bipolar disorder.

Superhero despite the disability

Polaris first appeared in The X-Men #49 (in October 1968). Though she has mostly been portrayed as a superheroine, she was the supervillain Malice for a short duration. The comic book explores her constant struggles with mental health issues. She remains unaware that she has some disorder which causes her to act erratically at times. Her condition could have been exacerbated due to the fact that her mind was controlled by Shadow King, a villain.

The Gifted, an adaption of the comic book, which aired on Fox on Oct. 2, 2017, remains true to the original character with regards to Lorna’s disorder. According to Emma Dumont, who plays the character, “You’re totally correct, she has bipolar disorder. She’s un-medicated, she’s not being treated for it, I don’t even know if in our show she knows she has it but she definitely does. She has major bouts of mania and very, very low times of depression…I think it’s really sad to see [someone] mentally ill also a woman be a hero.”

Comics that depict people with mental illnesses as humans are essential as they remove the common perception that all those with a mental disorder are evil. Spreading awareness, whether through comics or reel adaptations, helps in the removal of the stigma surrounding mental health and extend support to those suffering.

Bipolar disorder in teens and children

It is normal for children to go through phases of blues. However, a child or a teen who has a bipolar disorder exhibits extreme shifts in mood, behavior and activity levels. The child is also likely to exhibit changes in sleep and energy levels, and lacks the ability to think coherently. There are two phases of the disease — mania and depression. The signs of each phase are listed below:

Manic episode:
• Short temper, getting angry or irritated easily
• Sleep troubles but high energy
• Excessive talk about multiple things without making sense
• Extreme happiness not in sync with the usual behavior
• Risk-taking behavior
• Inability to stay focused for long

Depressive episode:
• Long period of sadness and hopelessness
• Complaints about stomachache and headache
• Sleep disturbances — too much or too little
• Thoughts about death or suicide
• Eating troubles — too much or too little
• Guilt and hopelessness
Road to recovery

It is important to discuss the symptoms with the child and encourage him or her to talk freely. Patience is the key to helping the child recover and lead a normal life. Sometimes, symptoms of bipolar disorder may overlap with those of another psychiatric illness. Therefore, it is essential to consult a health care professional for the right diagnosis and treatment.

White River Academy is one of the leading therapeutic boarding schools that assists troubled boys aged 12–17 in recovering from their addictions and mental disorders. Our state-of-the-art residential center specializes in delivering evidence-based treatment for bipolar disorder for teens. Call our 24/7 helpline (866) 300–0616 to know more about bipolar disorder treatment for teens.

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