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Twin Cities TV meteorologist becomes voice of struggle with bipolar disorder

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Three years after he went public with his bipolar diagnosis, popular Twin Cities weatherman Ken Barlow is finding out how his courage to speak out has helped others.

Ken Barlow, a KSTP-TV meteorologist, revealed his struggle with the disease at a National Alliance on Mental Illness fundraising event in 2012, and has since worked to reduce the stigma of mental illness. He even co-founded a non-profit organization, the Wellstone-Barlow Mental Health Initiative, dedicated to the cause.

In an interview with KSTP colleague Chris Egert this week, an emotional Barlow said "I've had two people tell me that I've saved their lives just from talking," referring to the numerous speeches he's given since revealing the diagnosis.

He also told Egert that simply getting the diagnosis was a struggle in itself, with a series of misdiagnoses leaving him untreated for bipolar 1 (the most severe type of the disorder) for a quarter of a century.

The Star Tribune reported that Barlow's subsequent efforts to raise awareness of the disease brought support from all corners, with award-winning actress Glenn Close sending him an email that said, "I just wanted to say thank you for having the courage to say the scary words out loud."

Barlow told the paper that since revealing his struggle, "it's gotten better. I feel like I'm not hiding anything."

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar is described as a brain disorder which causes "unusual shifts in mood energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out daily tasks," according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

It also says that the symptoms can ruin relationships, have negative effects on one's career or school performance, and even lead to suicide.

People with the disorder experience "intense emotional states" that go from "overly joyful" manic episodes, to "hopeless," depressive states.

Roughly 5.7 million American adults – 2.6 percent of the population age 18 and older – deal with bipolar ever year, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance reports. And the group says the disorder doesn't discriminate, as it's found in "all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes."

For more information on bipolar and support for sufferers as well as loved ones of those who have the disease, click here.

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