Charlie Sheen stages Toronto march for bipolar disorder

Click here to print this page
Friday April 15, 2011

Toronto Star

Amy Dempsey and Nicole Baute

Does he or doesn’t he?

Charlie Sheen has boasted about having tiger blood and Adonis DNA, but the ousted star of Two and a Half Men star does not — he has insisted — have bipolar disorder.

His infamous self-diagnosis? “Bi-winning.”

But Sheen became the face of bipolar disorder as he marched through downtown streets Friday night, accompanied by at least a dozen police officers on bikes and a crowd of several hundred people, to raise awareness for the illness.

Emerging from the Ritz Carlton, the actor jumped onto the hood of an SUV and shouted into the crowd that they had to donate a minimum of $1 to join this “epic” walk.

“I was called bipolar. You guys, I’m bi-winning right? I’m not sure what the f--- bipolar even means . . . it’s a psychiatric opinion, which means that to me it’s rooted in judgment”

In Toronto on his “Violent Torpedo of Truth” tour, Sheen himself organized the walk, firing off an out-of-the-blue Twitter invitation at about 4 a.m. on Friday — the morning after his first Toronto show — that asked fans to escort him from the Ritz-Carlton to Massey Hall.

A crowd of fans and media gathered in front of the Ritz, many just to catch a glimpse of the star and some to support the cause as well.

Toni Butler, 47, said Sheen “could be” bipolar. “A lot of his actions are how bipolar people behave. The ups and downs and really, really dramatic changes in their moods.”

Butler said she knows people with bipolar disorder. “I think now just about everybody knows somebody who’s bipolar.”

Longtime fan Tony Del Grande, 45, disagreed. “It’s just his persona. He’s a little eccentric. But bipolar? I don’t think so.”

Sheen’s impromptu announcement came days after Catherine Zeta-Jones made headlines when she revealed that she is being treated for bipolar II disorder, a less extreme version where bouts of depression are more common than the manic episodes.

Sheen didn’t explain what prompted him to plan the walk, but it appeared, at least, that he had taken on the disorder as a pet cause.

Sheen’s spokesman, Larry Solters, said the walk was a spontaneous decision. “Charlie wanted to do it, so he’s doing it,” he said.

In a separate tweet, Sheen announced he was taking donations for the Organization for Bipolar Affective Disorders and pledged to match all contributions to the Alberta-based society “$ for $.”

Sheen famously denied having bipolar disorder when an ABC journalist asked him about his mental state in February.

“Wow, what does that mean?” he answered. “Wow, and then what? What’s the cure, medicine? Make me like them? Not gonna happen. I’m bi-winning. I win here and I win there.”

Bipolar disorder is a serious medical condition that causes people to have extreme mood swings, shifting from periods of hyperactive “mania” to stints of deep depression. Symptoms include exaggerated self-esteem or feelings of grandeur, racing thoughts or flights of ideas, speeded-up activity and poor judgment.

One to two per cent of adults have bipolar disorder, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

“Awareness about bipolar disorder is a wonderful thing,” said Karen Liberman, executive director of the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. “But there’s a huge problem here.”

Liberman said she appreciates when celebrities champion the cause, but Sheen — who she says has alienated many and “acted untowardly in many respects” — may not be the best person for the job.

“There’s already enough confusion and misunderstanding and stigma associated with these illnesses,” she said.

Though there is no evidence Sheen has been diagnosed with the illness, medical professionals who have analyzed his baffling behaviour have found it consistent with bipolar disorder.

“The symptom I see is the pressured speech,” Dr. Stewart Beasley told an American television network.

“He’s really pushing to get those words out. He’s really on a roll. He’s getting everything coming out pretty fast, almost faster than his brain can think. And that’s very common with people who have bipolar disorders.”

Sheen has bragged extensively about the altered state of his own mind.

“Borrow my brain for five seconds,” he said in a February interview, “and (you would) just be like, ‘Dude, can’t handle it, unplug this bastard.’ ”

With files from The Canadian Press