Sean Costello was recognized as a guitar prodigy by age 15. His legacy of blues originals and obscure covers grew, and resulted in accolades and awards from around the globe. Most recently, Sean was nominated for two Blues Music Awards: Best Contemporary Blues Male Artist and Best Contemporary Blues Album for We Can Get Together. Unfortunately, Sean passed away on April 15, 2008, the eve of his 29th birthday, at a time when journalists were proclaiming him the future of the blues. Handsome, talented, with loving friends and family, it came as a shock to the music community was heartbreaking to those who loved him. Unknown to most, Sean had suffered from Bipolar Disorder, Type II, a medical condition which is accompanied by long periods of depression with cycles of hypomania.
At the behest of his mother who recognized his frequent melancholy, Sean was treated since age 12 by well regarded mental health professionals; yet, the diagnosis that might have gotten him on the right path eluded them. Unfortunately, Bipolar Disorder can take, on the average, between 8-10 years to be diagnosed. Those who knew Sean know how hard he tried to overcome his demons, and to keep them hidden. Sean was well aware of his struggles and his stumbles (just listen to No Half Steppin'), but he used his depth of feeling and his music to overcome what could have been insurmountable odds, reaching a level of success of which others only dream.
Sean worked with the best of the blues world and befriended such icons as Levon Helm, Hubert Sumlin, Nappy Brown, Jody Williams and many others. He was beloved in France, and his obituary was included in The Guardian in London, where his sister resides. Their caption below his smiling face read that Sean was known for generously sharing his talents with others. Sean was on the cover of Blues Revue, was nominated and won many awards, but the struggle to work as a musician and fight the mood swings that accompany bipolar disorder was exhausting and eventually took an irreversible toll.
Hippocrates once said: "A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses."
The Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research is a living testimony to Sean's spirit as he tried to beat the odd, looking for creative solutions while supporting his colleagues in music or friends in need. Sean's absence has left a vacuum in his world that is not easy to ignore will be impossible to fill; however, his life and suffering have propelled a cause whose mission seeks to avoid another needless loss of life. It is the Fund's mission to increase research for treatment of Bipolar Disorder, develop and support education for early diagnosis and intervention, and translate the human side of bipolar disorder and its severity to improve outcomes and resources, with a focus on the underserved musical community.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person's mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But there is good news: bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.
About 5.7 million American adults or about 2.6 percent of the population age 18 and older in any given year, have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, some people have their first symptoms during childhood, and some develop them late in life. It is often not recognized as an illness, and people may suffer for years before it is properly diagnosed and treated. Like diabetes or heart disease, bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that must be carefully managed throughout a person's life.
Reprinted with permission from The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
- Bipolar disorder affects people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Bipolar disorder is a lifelong chronic illness. Unfortunately, recent studies suggest that between 30% and 50% of people with bipolar disorder are currently going without treatment.
- Although many medical treatments exist, as many as 50% of people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide, and rates of completed suicide are 15 times that of the general population.
- Bipolar disorder is highly over-represented among famous artists, musicians, and writers. Even family members of those with bipolar disorder are likely to be more creative than the general population.
- The Sean Costello fund provides the first major organization dedicated to research and treatment focused on the highly creative person with bipolar disorder.
- With proper treatment, bipolar disorder can be effectively managed. Many well-known and accomplished public figures-from Beethoven to Winston Churchill-have led successful lives despite having bipolar disorder.
The Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research is a 501(c)(3) organization and donations are tax deductible within IRS guidelines.
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