Many are familiar with Albert McCarthy known as Malta’s Santa Klaws (Claus). But very few people know that the man behind the snow-white beard has, for many years, battled the serious mental health condition known as bipolar disorder.

Having been stable for the past 17 years, Mr McCarthy and his wife, Lina have decided to reach out to other sufferers and their families by setting up the Be Positive – Bipolar Support Group Malta. 

Mr McCarthy, 72, remembered how a lack of job security was the trigger which pushed him into his first low. 

He was in Zurich as the tour leader of a group, when a series of unfortunate incidents tipped him over the edge. Some of his people were robbed, a man threw himself beneath their coach and the hotel, booked through a tourist office was, to his great embarrassment, situated in the red light district, where waitresses served them topless. His group comprised people from religious and MUSEUM circles.

Mr McCarthy broke down and locked himself up in his room, where he experienced psychosis and would imagine seeing the devil. He was committed to a mental health hospital.

“It was so painful,” Mrs McCarthy said as her voice broke. “I was terrified of the stigma. But now I’m no longer afraid. It is an illness like any other and, with proper treatment and medication, sufferers can live a fulfilling, normal life. We want to raise awareness and help people identify the symptoms of bipolar. I could easily have left Albert, with all the mischief he got up to. If we managed to save at least one marriage, we would be happy.”

For more information, visit Be Positive – Bipolar Support Group Malta on Facebook or e-mail linbertu@yahoo.com. 

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