Contest Entries

Growing Up Bipolar

Entrants: Mary Carmichael

Affiliation: Newsweek

General Interest Magazines above 1 million circ.

Year: 2008

Place: First Place

Provide a brief synopsis of the story or stories, including any significant findings.

This story focused on a child, Max Blake, now 10, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 2, and followed his struggles - and his parents' - up to the present day. A bipolar diagnosis at such a young age is extremely controversial. The reporter wanted to show what it is like to be, and raise, a child with this diagnosis: What does his behavior look like, and how does it change as he grows? How do parents make difficult decisions, such as whether to medicate, and what happens when they do? What effects does this disorder have on family life? How are mentally ill children and their parents treated by doctors, the educational system, insurance companies, family and friends, and society at large?

Judges' comments: From the first sentence, this riveting story escorts readers into a nightmarish world of a young boy's mental illness. The writing soars with observational detail that shows, rather than tells, creating a narrative of survival and, ultimately, one of hope. Layered with multiple perspectives - the product of original reporting - the story tackles controversial issues that resonate long after the final sentence.

Read "Growing Up Bipolar."

See the contest questionnaire in which the reporter writes about how this story was written.