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The Portrayal of Bipolar Disorder on ABC’s “Secret and Lies”

secrets and lies
I don’t watch much television. I am more of a music chick. I do watch the show “Secret and Lies” on ABC. The story revolves around a young boy’s murder and the quest of one detective to find out who did it. It is pretty good – suspenseful, edge of your seat, hold you breath kind of stuff.

Last night’s episode touched on a topic I am sensitive about – bipolar disorder. Last night the main character finds pills stashed away in a drawer of the mother of the dead boy. He steals two prescription pill containers and looks up the medications on the Internet when he gets home. One medication was lithium, a mood-stabilizer, and the other was an anti-psychotic. He reads about their purpose, finds the words “bipolar disorder” and reads about some scary side effects of stopping the medication. Violence, anger, instability.

So that kind of pissed me off. I don’t like it when the media perpetuates false stereotypes of the mentally ill. Then it got worse. I won’t get into too many details of the show, but in a scene following the pill stealing, the main character is in her house and does something to anger the mother. She. Goes. Crazy.

She throws things at him, including a pair of scissors which lodge themselves into the door near his head as he is exiting the house. Basically, you get the impression that she is trying to hurt, if not kill him. It also gives you the impression that she killed her son because she went off her medication.

Anger and irritability are a very real part of bipolar disorder. Erratic behavior can happen too. But to insinuate that people with bipolar disorder are dangerous and are killers is wrong. It makes me mad because someone with no knowledge of the illness will watch the show and get the wrong idea. There are probably people who woke up today believing they should be scared of those of us with bipolar disorder because of last night’s “Secret and Lies” episode.

I don’t know if in next week’s final episode we will find out that the bipolar mother killed her 5 year old son or not. I will watch to find out. But I am mad at the way they treated bipolar disorder in last night’s episode. Come on, ABC, you’re better than that.

The Portrayal of Bipolar Disorder on ABC’s “Secret and Lies”

Elaina J. Martin

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APA Reference
Martin, E. (2015). The Portrayal of Bipolar Disorder on ABC’s “Secret and Lies”. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2019, from


Last updated: 27 Apr 2015
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