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Bipolar Blues

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “9.5 percent of the population, or about 18.8 million American adults, suffer from a depressive illness.”

Of those 18.8 million people, the NIMH states, “Bipolar disorder affects approximately 2.3 million American adults, or about 1.2 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older.”

When a person discovers that he is bipolar-aka manic-depressive-or depressed, embarrassment and shame is what he often feels initially, despite mental illness being a disease, not a choice. Drummer Roy Brooks is over that inital phase. He’s in jail because of repeated threats he made to neighbors while in a manic stage, and now his illness is entirely public.

“Roy was very happy about the first piece,” says Jim Dulzo, author of this month’s cover story on Brooks, which grew out of a piece he wrote for Detroit’s Metro Times. “He’s not shown one iota of embarrassment, though I think his experience of being jailed and then having the piece come out with so much detail helped drive home that the situation is serious.”

Brooks could acknowledge his illness and its effects without ever fully grasping them. “He used to joke about how people thought he was crazy-the implication being that the problem was more theirs than his,” Dulzo says. “His view on that seems to have changed profoundly, and I think he views the writing I’m doing about him as something that can help him.”

Dulzo has been aware of Brooks’ problems for years, and he’s worked with the drummer on numerous concert productions. Brooks would sometimes go off his medication as performance dates approached, his mania manifesting itself as anger. “Roy has never been violent toward me, although he did, on several occasions, call me up as a gig I was working with him on was drawing near and just scream at me,” Dulzo says. “The second time that something like that happened was the last time I worked with him. At the end of the set, in a family setting, he grabbed the microphone and started raving in an incomprehensible fashion about ‘niggers.’ I eventually informed him that I could not work with him anymore. He took it real well, but I don’t think he got it at that point that the reason was that he’d become too manic to work with.”

Brooks is now paying dearly for his manic-depression and the lack of proper care for the uninsured.

For more information on mental illness, contact National Institute of Mental Health, 301-443-4513 or

Originally Published