May 28, 2010 / 9:31 AM / 9 years ago

Film captures mood swings of bipolar disorder

LONDON (Reuters) - After spending two weeks on a sun-drenched island off Jamaica with 12 Ukrainian beauties, British multi-millionaire Paul Downes went off the rails.

British multi-millionaire Paul Downes (L) and filmmaker Mark James pose outside Channel 4 studios before the screening of the documentary “True Stories: Bipolar Expedition” in London May 6, 2010. REUTERS/Natasha Elkington

Instead of sticking to his original 250,000-pound scheme of picking his perfect wife from the glamorous candidates he had flown to the island, Downes, 50, found himself in the grip of a manic episode, proclaiming himself not only the creator of mankind but the creator of God.

That definitely was not in the script.

Downes had asked a cameraman to document his unusual plan to find a soulmate. Instead, it was his mania that was caught on film, giving a rare insight into bipolar disorder.

“I wanted to find a bride but when I go manic, I become Ya, the creator of Allah and the creator of God and I start thinking of an awful lot of things other than beautiful ladies that are there,” Downes told Reuters in London after the screening of the documentary created out of his 2009 trip to Jamaica.

“True Stories: Bipolar Expedition,” by film maker Mark James, aired on British television this week and will become available internationally.

“When I went to Jamaica, Paul was in the grip of a developing mania which I obviously hadn’t witnessed before and had no idea what that was, so I filmed all the events as you see in the film,” James told Reuters.

“He just got more interested in me and the camera and making speeches which went on every day.”


Before being diagnosed with bipolar at the age of 44, Downes was living a high-powered life of luxury, making business deals, playing golf and gambling. But one day, while holidaying in Jamaica, he began acting strangely.

He started smoking pot, stopped sleeping, asked a stranger to marry him and eventually jumped off a cliff into the sea without knowing how to swim.

“I don’t know what triggered that because if anybody had said that I could possibly have a mental illness in the first 44 years of my life, I’d have said you were the crazy person,” Downes said.

Known as the “disease of the 21st century,” bipolar disorder has made headlines with celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Richard Dreyfuss and Sinead O’Connor openly discussing their struggles.

It causes mood swings from severe depression to dramatic highs, which can range from a couple times a year, to a couple times a day, depending on the severity of the disorder in the individual, and is often followed by suicidal feelings.

“In my last manic episode, I had seven chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royces with a private detective visit Prince Charles, Stephen Hawkins and Simon Cowell with DVDs of taped speeches and certain gifts,” Downes said.

In the documentary, James suggests that Downes’ first ever manic episode in 2004 was triggered by a business deal gone wrong. Downes strongly denies this, saying he has no idea what sparked it off.

There is a lot that is not understood about the condition and the biggest problem medical experts face is actually diagnosing it.

“It’s like trying to unravel the origins of the universe,” said James. “We’ve only just really started to scratch the surface of what the whole universe is about and I think it’s the same with the human mind.”

Many studies have shown there is a definite link between bipolar disorder and creative genius. Although Downes is no artist, his wealth allows him to create other worlds — such as the Jamaica wife hunt — that have cost him around 1 million pounds in the past six years.

James said the documentary illustrates how multi-faceted the human mind is.

“It is a manic episode, but it’s sort of living out something which is so extraordinary and colourful,” he added.

“In a way it’s like making a work of art.”

The manic episode on the island didn’t entirely derail Downes’ original quest however — he plans to travel to Ukraine in July to meet two of the women, one of whom he hopes will become his wife.

Editing by Steve Addison

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