SNP councillors at the Titan Crane

Cllr Jonathan McColl and the SNP group on West Dunbartonshire Council who appear to have decided he should stay on as leader.

Investigation by Bill Heaney

It’s no longer something to be kept quiet if you are mentally ill. Nearly everyone it seems is mentally ill, or so it appears here in Dumbarton.

Bet you didn’t think Cllr Jonathan McColl’s “coming out” with the fact that he was suffering from Bipolar II disorder would be followed up by the rush of people wishing to tell the world they have a mental illness.

Even the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton, it seems, are mentally ill. It’s a fact that is repeated a million times a day in the newspapers and on television.

So far as they are concerned, it said to be down to all that stress of living in your grandmother’s cottage and having to do your very important royal duty.

I’m not so sure about that. I think it has more to do with Harry and Megan having Camilla Parker Bowles as their step mother and mother-in-law.

A nightmare that, if you ask me.

I picked this up from the few words a royal press corps veteran got shot back at her when she asked Camilla how she was getting along with Harry and his new wife.

The royal women – even the admirable Kate – must be envious of Megan Markel’s film star looks, her taste in fashion and the way she deports herself.

Camilla’s looks, remarkable way of speaking and those bawdy conversations she and Charles have periodically, more ala Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davis than a blow-in royal princess, have made the world wonder why the Prince of Wales ever came to prefer her to the late and very lovely Princess Diana.

Anyway, there is nothing we can do about it if the world we live in and the people we have to meet are driving us round the bend.

It is said that one in three of us is going to have expect to be mentally ill for part of their life at least.

However, after all I have heard since Cllr McColl told a local reporter that he had been mentally ill for a long part of his life – and he still suffered daily from what might be called his “demons” – I have found myself more interested than ever about mental health.

That is my own mental health and that of others, including Cllr McColl who first raised the matter of his own health publicly.

What I have come to realise is that it is not the fact of having mental illness or even being diagnosed with it that is the most important aspect of it.

It is how that illness or disorder manifests itself in a person and affects their personality, their mood and all round well-being.

And, so far as Cllr McColl is concerned, how his disorder affects his ability to do his job as leader of the SNP administration at West Dunbartonshire Council.

Since this is a public appointment and Cllr McColl has chosen personally to disclose what he has publicly, I have no qualms about writing about it.

I believe he said he was going public in order that others could take an example from him.

No one could do that if they didn’t have the detail. And here is that detail.

What’s to know about bipolar II disorder?

Bipolar II disorder is a form of the psychiatric condition known as bipolar disorder. All forms of bipolar disorder cause unusual mood shifts and changes in energy and activity levels.

Bipolar II disorder is a form of this disorder characterised by cycles of depressive episodes followed by hypo-manic periods. Hypo-mania is a period of mood and behaviour that is elevated above normal behaviour. It is not as extreme as a manic period.

Bipolar II disorder vs bipolar I

Bipolar II disorder is characterised by hypo-manic periods preceded by depressive episodes.

The main difference between bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder has to do with the intensity of the manic period.

Bipolar I disorder is characterised by at least one episode of mania before or after a hypo-manic or major depressive episode. Sometimes, the manic episodes that occur in bipolar I disorder may trigger a psychotic episode where the person disassociates from reality.

People with bipolar II disorder do not experience true manic episodes, where their mood and energy levels are so high that it causes trouble with work and socializing and may cause psychosis.

However, this does not make bipolar II disorder less severe than bipolar I disorder. In bipolar II disorder, the depressive episodes are similar to those in bipolar I disorder and cause significant disruption to the person’s daily life for an extended time.


Symptoms of bipolar II disorder include periods of hypomania followed by depressive episodes.

While it can be normal for people to experience periods of feeling upbeat followed by periods of sadness, in people with bipolar disorder, these mood changes are more extreme.

People experiencing hypomania may notice a combination of the following symptoms:

  • an increase in energy or feeling more agitated
  • feeling more upbeat or wired
  • increased self-confidence
  • decreased need or inability to sleep
  • racing thoughts
  • talking too fast or talking much more than normal
  • a tendency towards reckless behaviour, such as spending too much, drinking or using drugs, or risk taking
  • impaired decision making

For these periods to be classified as true hypomanic episodes, they must last for at least 4 days and have at least three of the above symptoms.

People experiencing hypomania may feel very good during these periods, and may not know anything is wrong. However, loved ones watching a person with bipolar II disorder will notice abnormal changes in behaviour during hypomanic episodes.

When people with bipolar II disorder are not in a hypomanic state, they may be in a major depressive state. Symptoms of major depressive episodes include the following:

The inability to sleep may be a symptom of a major depressive episode.

  • feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • loss of interest in activities
  • inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • decreased energy
  • feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • trouble concentrating or focusing
  • weight gain or weight loss without dieting
  • suicidal thoughts or tendencies

Cllr McColl told the reporter to whom he gave the interview about his disorder that he had attempted to take his life twice.

Other signs and symptoms of bipolar II disorder may occur during both periods of hypomania and major depressive episodes. These may include the following:

  • anxiety
  • melancholy
  • rapid cycling between states

Risk factors

There are no known risk factors for bipolar II disorders, although some studies suggest there may be a genetic component.

Having a first-degree relative with bipolar II disorder may increase a person’s chances of being diagnosed with the same or a similar condition.


Bipolar II disorder can be hard to identify and is often misdiagnosed as major depressive disorder because symptoms of hypomanic periods are mild and unrecognized by the individual.

When diagnosing bipolar II disorder, a doctor will do a physical exam and may order some blood tests to rule out physical causes of symptoms.

If a doctor does not find any physical causes for a person’s symptoms, such as a hormonal imbalance, they may do a psychiatric evaluation or refer the person to a psychiatrist for further evaluation.


The treatment of bipolar II disorder may be overseen by a psychiatrist.  A psychiatrist often oversees the treatment of bipolar II disorder. Treating bipolar II disorder is generally multi-faceted, involving a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Medications to treat bipolar disorder II disorder may include the following:

  • mood stabilizers
  • antipsychotics
  • antidepressants

It may take a doctor some time to find the best combination and dosage of medication. It is important for the person to tell their doctor how the medications affect their mood and if there are any side effects.

Psychotherapy involves counselling services. It is centred on talking through emotions and problems associated with bipolar disorder and other life issues. It may also include behavioural management, such as creating action plans on what to do during mood alterations.

Occasionally, hospitalisation or inpatient programmes may be required to control depressive episodes or treat concurrent problems, such as alcohol or drug addiction.


Bipolar II disorder is a lifelong disease that may change over time. In some cases, a person may experience a reduction in symptoms as they age.

Many people with bipolar II disorder experience other conditions concurrently. These conditions may complicate or exacerbate bipolar II disorder. Some people with multiple diagnoses may struggle to maintain relationships and employment.

Finding treatment for bipolar II disorder that works for the individual may be a long process of trial and error. A person’s needs may change and evolve over time. With effective treatment, a person may be able to minimise their symptoms.

Therapy can help people with bipolar II disorder deal with hypomania and depressive episodes in constructive ways.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, understanding and avoiding known triggers, and sticking with an effective treatment plan may help make the symptoms of bipolar II disorder manageable.

One comment

  1. Capitalism is the main disease of the mind and the predominant cause of mental illness. Mental health professionals have been good at identifying conditions and symptoms and providing chemical pills to treat them. There’s big money in Big Pharma. Of course, that just proves they are in the dark as for causal explanations and dealing with that. You can see the problem. Members of the capitalist community all identify as mentally ill….more or less. So the sane ones are just a bit less off their rockers than the full blown maniacs…who may appear to be sane until they are diagnosed.

    Someone once told me their definition of sanity was success. But all that means is, until they fail spectacularly and it’s discovered they were fruit-cakes all along. Like bankers. The trouble with capitalism is it provides rewards for failure, rewards for bad outcomes and rewards for treating your fellow human beings like shit. Indeed, you only have to scratch the surface to discover capitalists are all liars, thieves and killers. Although the PR, sales and marketing guy….Teflon Tone….would never admit to that. Psychos never do.

    I had to make do with all of this shit and more besides when I was younger. Then I found my freedom and socialism and never looked back. My mentally deranged parents, the insane Doctor amongst other maniacs had me on Valium by the time I was 13. Going fishing doon the Leven was like heaven to me…to get away from those psychos.

    As well as Marx I was also introduced to Hegel by a guy who used to go round the psychology and psychiatry seminar and conference circuit….telling them they were all full of shit, really. Last I heard he went back to New Zealand. No doubt because people are saner there.

    But this Idea that it’s OK to be a crackpot because everyone else is a crackpot and we should all join the capitalist club…that’s asking for trouble. Capitalism kills and it makes you sick. Why anyone would want to work hard for the ruling class scum of the earth….well, there’s one born every minute and it’s not long before they’re marching off to war and the height of insanity.

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